As I was reading about the Gospel lesson for today, my thoughts dwelt on a moment that I had just under a year ago when driving from the Sea of Galilee on our way to Nazareth. We were driving on a simple road up through the mountains, and Archbishop Damaskinos pointed to a small and seemingly poverty stricken village on the right hand side of the road, with a sign written in Arabic, Hebrew, and English: “Nain”.
I remember shutting my eyes and imagining how that entire city became completely undone just under 2,000 years ago, when it was visited by God Himself, who performed a miracle which went beyond human understanding.
When our Lord entered this city, he saw a funeral procession of a young man followed by a large procession of family and friends. At the front of this gathering was the deceased’s grief stricken mother, who was going through sorrows that many of us here today cannot even imagine. Not only had she lost her son, but she herself was a widow. There was no husband or loved one to mourn with…no one left to comfort her.
How many tears would we be shedding brothers and sisters, even to be witnesses to such sadness. Misery upon misery…darkness and ugliness, the likes of which most of us could not dream in our worst nightmares.
In the midst of the darkness…our Lord, as He does with all of the ugliness of the world, showed the world once again why He is the Sun of Righteousness, lighting up the moments in our lives that are in shadow. Jesus was moved when he saw the tears which flowed from the face of his creation, and He was moved with compassion for this poor widow of Nain. He put Himself in the shoes of all those who are in the darkness of despair. Their misery became His misery…and Christ was moved to action. He simply touched the open coffin, and commanded that the young man arise. In one moment, tears of sorrow became tears of joy, in the Resurrection of the Dead.
Tears are an important part of our lives which we do not often think about. Unless we are cutting up onions, they only manifest themselves when there is some type of love tugging at our hearts. We shed tears of joy on incredibly happy occasions of love; like an engagement, a wedding, or the birth of a child. We shed tears of sorrow when we are faced with extreme difficulty; like being confronted with a terminal illness, or with the loss of someone that we love. One of the greatest gifts that the Fathers of the Church say you can have, are tears when you go to confession…because they are a physical sign of true love and repentance in your heart!
We find many places in scripture that speak about how much God cares for His creation. Christ Himself notes on many occasions, just how much God the Father observes and watches over us. He watches our every breath. He numbers the hairs on each one of our heads. And we even read in the psalms how God sees and collects each and every tear that comes from our eyes. This is how important each and everyone of us is to the creator of all!
There is a beautiful story in the lives of saints, that I am willing to bet some of you have heard about at one point in your lives, about the life of St. Monica, who was the mother of St. Augustine. After her son went off to school, St. Monica became extremely bothered by the way that the young Augustine was living his life. He began to entrench himself in Pagan Philosophy. He refused to be baptized in the Christian faith. Augustine was constantly getting into trouble by living a “wayward” life.
Eventually, St. Monica went and sought the counsel of the bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose, who became a wonderful spiritual guide for her. One day, she entered into the Church, and was completely undone with tears, as her thoughts dwelled on Augustine and the life that he was living. The wonderful St. Ambrose put his arm around the grieving mother and said something extraordinarily beautiful about the importance of her tears:
“My beloved sister in Christ, no son of tears like the ones that come from your face…could ever be lost.”
“No son of tears could ever be lost.”
We see from stories like this, of just how incredible of a gift that tears are. They are a physical sign of love that flows from the hearts…and we in the world should pay extra special attention to their importance in our lives!
One of my favorite passages in all of scripture is the one that we read on Lazarus Saturday, just before Holy Week begins. In that powerful narrative of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, we hear two simple worlds about tears, that changes EVERYTHING for us in this world. When He saw the beauty of His creation, bereft of glory and form and lying in a tomb: “Jesus Wept.”
Jesus wept…and we learned just how strong and powerful His love is for each and every one of us.
Jesus wept…and darkness turned into light.
Jesus wept…and ugliness turned into beauty.
Jesus wept…and all of our sorrows turned into ineffable joy.
Jesus wept…and death turned into unending life.
Behold the power of tears, beloved brothers and sisters! May our Lord increase the Love in our hearts, by giving us those same gift of tears for Him, and for each other!