5 Easter: May 14/15 2022
It happens to all of us. . . at weddings, at graduations, and at going away parties. It happens in nursing homes, cemeteries, in hospitals, and on playgrounds.
And many times we are embarrassed when it happens and we try to stop – but it’s always more healthy to continue than to stop.
Sister of Notre Dame, Melannie Svoboda, tells of the time it happened to her in a funeral home:
An elderly widow named Mrs. Benish lived down the road from our farm in a tiny white house nestled in a grove of trees.
Although she had several grown children, she lived alone. For many years she had been our babysitter, one we were fond of.
But when I was about 10 – she died suddenly in her sleep.
Hers was one of the first deaths to make a real impact on me. I remember going to her wake with the rest of my family and even surprised myself – when I burst into tears when I saw her motionless body in the casket.
Embarrassed by my tears, I sought refuge in a chair in a remote corner of the room – away from everyone else.
Suddenly – a man appeared out of nowhere and squatted down on the floor next to my chair. I did not know who he was — but I will always remember what he said to me.
He began by saying, “you must have loved Mrs. Benish very much.” Unable to speak, I nodded a few times.
Then he said, “Always remember this: never be ashamed of your tears. Only rocks don’t cry.”
Even back then, I somehow comprehended the simple - yet profound - truth of his words. Rocks don’t cry. . . never be ashamed of your tears. . . you must have loved very much.
Yes, it is because we LOVE that we shed tears: both tears of joy – and tears of sadness.
It is because we LOVE those who are getting married, graduating, or leaving behind a job or a home — that we shed tears.
It is because we LOVE the one in the nursing home, or being lowered into the ground, or about to have surgery, or being picked on at recess – that we shed tears.
It’s only if we are a rock – unmoving, unengaged, unloving – that our tears can be spared.
As one of my mentors simply states: tears are the cost of our love.
Or as the writer Washington Irving says:
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness - but of power.
Tears are messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unfathomable love. So let the tears come.
And hopefully we will be blessed to have people like the stranger in Sister Melanie’s life who tell us it is okay to cry – or be blessed by people like Josh in our life.
Josh was a ten year old boy who, when out playing in the neighborhood –was supposed to be home by 6:00 for supper.
One night, he wasn’t home at 6:00. And the later it got, the more worried his mother became.
When he finally did arrive home, his mom wasn’t very patient with him and immediately launched into how she was worried and afraid that something had happened to him. She told him if he could not make it home on time –
he should have at least called. “Why were you late anyway?” she asked with more than a quiet, understanding voice. . .
Josh said, “well, I would have been home on time. But a couple of blocks from home I came across my friend Tommy. He was upset and crying because his bike was broken – so I stopped to help.”
“Why?” asked his mother in that rather loud motherly voice. “You don’t know a thing about fixing bikes.”
“I know that,” Josh said. “But I do know how to cry. So that’s how I helped my friend – I sat and cried with him. . .”
Josh knew the wisdom that comes from an old saying: Tears of sadness shared – are halved. While tears of joy shared – are doubled.”
We can’t always FIX things for people – in fact, most times we are kind of crazy if we even try. But what we can do – is share their tears – especially their tears of sorrow.
We cry because we love – and we can help others BECAUSE we love – as Jesus calls us to do in the Gospel: “as I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
And do as the 3rd Eucharistic Prayer for Special Occasions calls us to: We need to “keep attentive to the needs of all so that, sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope –
we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation and go forward with them along the way of Christ’s kingdom.”
We are all members of the Good Shepherd’s flock. And we follow him best when we imitate his care and concern for others.
The words of the Good Shepherd are words of healing – and so should ours.
His are words of peace, love, and hope – and so should ours.
Together, we walk on the journey of life. And together we help bear each other’s sorrow and share each other’s joy. . .
And we should have no shame of shedding tears, because after all, we are told in the shortest verse of the New Testament, that Jesus wept. He wept over the loss of his friend, Lazarus.
Tears are a sign of our love, our humanity and our vulnerability.
Pope Francis has referred several times in his homilies to “the gift of tears” which he believes leads us to showing mercy and empathy to those in need.
And then, as Christians – we live in the possibility and hope of what Eric Clapton sings in one of his songs:
Beyond the door.
There’s peace, I’m sure
And I know there’ll be no more
Tears in heaven.
But we don’t have to take Eric Clapton’s word on that – we have God’s word that we heard both last week and this week in the Book of Revelation – which captured my attention and heart and led me to preach this homily.
Last week, the Book of Revelation told us:
“For the lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
And today we heard: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, God will always be with them as their God – and God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”
Yes, there will be no more tears in heaven because all of those things that cause us to shed tears of sorrow here on earth will be no more – no more death, or mourning, wailing or pain. No more sickness, failed dreams, frustrations or bullying.
And we will know God is with us – which is another cause of our tears here on earth when we think God has abandoned us –
when we forget that God is always with us. God never gives up on us.
That God is always willing to give us another chance – ALL because GOD LOVES US!
I do think, however, Clapton is only partially right — for I do believe there will still be tears of joy in heaven. I mean when I get to see my mother and father again – and you get to see your loved ones again – and they get to see us – how could there not be tears of joy??? Which, when shared – will double.
5/17/2022 06:59:15 pm
Thank you Matthew for this beautiful reflection. It was very comforting to me. I do miss your wonderful homilies!!
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