God Became Man So That He Might Cry

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The scene in the Gospel of John where Jesus encounters Mary, the sister of Lazarus, weeping is more significant than many may know.  Jesus is the response from heaven for her tears.  Indeed, he mixes his tears with hers.

“When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Sir, come and see.’  And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him’” (John 11:32-36).

This is a poignant moment of intense union.  Ours is not a God that ignores or abandons his children.  The Church teaches that God becomes a man so that he might die and offer atonement for sin.  This is true, but more, God inserts himself into the human family so that the tears which are impossible in heaven might be shed on earth among men.  God wants to cry with and for us.  I suspect that his eyes would again well up upon the Cross— tears of anguish because of the great cost, tears of sorrow over all who would play the role of Judas, and tears of satisfaction that his mission among men is accomplished.  A people have been redeemed.

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Ours is no stoic Messiah or Gnostic or Manichean Christ who only pretends to be human.  He is the unique God-Man who by grace would divinize his creatures in holiness.  Death is the vile price for disobedience.  His fidelity overthrows the primordial rebellion and liberates humanity from the bondage to the serpent.

Too often when we see a person suffering lamentation, our initial impetus is to offer a hollow consolation and to impede the flood of tears.  We think we are helping but in truth we are thinking as men do and not as God.  The serpent or devil never truly weeps; if he appears to do so they are the cold tears of manipulation and seduction.  He wants his way or else.  How many times have we seen the most selfish of children weep in such a manner?  They feel sorry for themselves because they cannot tolerate the good fortune of others.  It is in this that greed and deception are often bedfellows.  The tears of Jesus, and by extension the saints, are those that pour forth from the font of truth— about the human condition, about suffering humanity, and about the tragic price of sin.  Tears of this sort should not be stemmed by any desire to maintain appearances.  These are the tears that give us a share in the saving passion and the cross that we are commanded to carry.  The tears of Jesus draw to themselves all the tears of righteous men and women, bringing them to a spiritual perfection.  The tears of Christ would wean our tears of loss from any taint of selfishness. 

“God forbid that I should disapprove the mourning of a husband, who after having raised his eyes to heaven, there to see his spouse crowned with immortality, feels them fill with tears as, turning them down to earth again, he no longer finds this beloved companion by his side. This sentiment which causes us to regret the person whose companionship formed our happiness, cannot be blamable when it is not the only source of tears which we give to our loss.  This desire to enjoy the society of those we love is so natural to man that God offers him its gratification as the eternal reward of his fidelity to the divine love during life” (Louis Provano de Collegno, The Consolations of Religion at the Death of Those Who are Dear to Us, Letter 1).   

Inspired by and quotations taken from an old pamphlet entitled IN HEAVEN WE KNOW OUR OWN by Fr. Blot, S.J.

About Father Joe

Father Joe Jenkins I am the pastor of Holy Family Church and a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
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