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Sep 28, 2022 380 Sister M. Louise O’Rourke
Engage

The Power of Tears

All of us have cried countless tears throughout our lives. But did you know that God has collected every one of them?

Why do we cry? We cry because we are sad or fed up. We cry because we are hurt and lonely. We cry because we have been betrayed or disillusioned. We cry because we have regret, we wonder why, how, where, what. We cry because… well, sometimes we don’t even know why we are crying! If you have ever cared for a baby, you know the stress of trying to figure out why the child is crying, especially after you have fed them, changed them, put them down for a nap! Sometimes they just want to be held. Similarly, sometimes we too want to be held in the embrace of God, but are conscious of our sinfulness that seems to distance us from Him.

From Eyes to God’s Heart

The Scriptures tell us even Jesus cried: “And Jesus wept” (John 11:35)—the shortest verse in the Gospel—opens a window into the heart of Jesus. In Luke 19:41-44 we learn that Jesus “shed tears over” Jerusalem because its inhabitants did not “know the time of (their) visitation.” In the Book of Revelation John “wept bitterly” because there was nobody fit to open the scroll and read it (Revelation 5:4). This awareness of the human condition can limit our ability to grasp the fulness of life which God continually offers each of us. Revelation 21:4 reminds us that “God will wipe away every tear”, yet Psalm 80:5 says that the Lord “has fed them with the bread of tears and made them to drink tears in large measure.” So, which is it? Does God want to dry our tears and console us, or does He want to make us cry?

Jesus cried because there is power in tears. There is solidarity in tears. Because He loves each person so much that He can’t bear the blindness that prevents us from accepting the opportunities God gives us to be close to Him, to be loved by Him, and to experience His great mercy. Jesus was overcome with compassion when he saw Martha and Mary suffering the loss of their brother Lazarus. But His tears also may have been a response to the deep wound of sin which causes death. Death has consumed God’s creation since the time of Adam and Eve. Yes, Jesus wept…for Lazarus and for his sisters. Yet during this painful experience Jesus performs one of His greatest miracles: “Come forth!” He says, and His good friend Lazarus walks out of the tomb. Love always has the final word.

Another beautiful Scripture which speaks of tears and offers an image I cherish is found in Psalm 56:9: “My wanderings you have noted; are my tears not stored in Your flask.” It is humbling and consoling to think that the Lord collects our tears. They are precious to the Father; they can be an offering to our merciful God.

Wordless Prayers

Tears can heal the heart and cleanse the soul and bring us closer to God. In her great masterpiece, The Dialogue, Saint Catherine of Siena devoted an entire chapter to the spiritual significance of tears. For her, tears express “an exquisite, profound sensitivity, a capacity for being moved and for tenderness.” In his book, Discerning Hearts, Dr. Anthony Lilles says that Saint Catherine “Presents those holy affections as the only proper response to the great love revealed in Christ crucified. These tears move us away from sin and into the very heart of God.” Recall the woman who anointed Jesus’s feet with the precious nard, washed them with her tears, and dried them with her hair. Her pain is real, but so is her experience of being infinitely loved.

Our tears remind us that we need God and others to walk with us along the pilgrim way. Life situations may cause us to cry, but sometimes those tears can water the seeds of our future happiness. Charles Dickens reminded us that “we should never be ashamed of our tears for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.” At times, tears are the only bridge for us to reach God, to pass from death to life, from crucifixion to Resurrection. When Jesus encountered Mary Magdalene on that day of Resurrection, He asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?” But He soon transformed her tears into an explosion of Paschal joy as he mandated her to be the first messenger of the Resurrection.

As we continue our pilgrim journey, struggling at times to understand the folly of the Cross, may we weep for those things which make Jesus weep—war, sicknesses, poverty, injustice, terrorism, violence, hatred, anything which makes little of our brothers and sisters. We weep with them; we weep for them. And when tears rush over us at the most unexpected moments, may we rest in the peace of knowing that our God catches each one with gentleness and care. He knows every tear and He knows what caused it. He collects them and mixes them with the divine tears of His Son. One day, united with Christ, our tears will be tears of joy!

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Sister M. Louise O’Rourke

Sister M. Louise O’Rourke is a Disciple of the Divine Master (PDDM), a religious order founded to evangelise through social communications and more specifically through art and beauty. She currently serves in Dublin, Ireland. She blogs over at: https:// pilgrimsprogresspddm.blogspot.com/.

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