The Gift of Tears
(Pentecost: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7 and 12-13; John 20:19-23)
St. Paul writes: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit.” In the omitted verses (8-11) of the second reading, he gives examples and, later in this same chapter, he cautions individual Christians against thinking their own gifts are better than those of others.
If we look at many of the great spiritual writers over the centuries, however, there is one gift that is absent in Paul’s list: the gift of tears.
In the Bible, tears and weeping are most often presented as an outpouring of grief, remorse or supplication. However, universal experience teaches us that tears provide release for a great variety of other emotions as well, including joy, gratitude, awe. All of these have one thing in common: intensity of feeling.
We must keep this in mind when we think of our Weeping Mother. Think of her sorrow as she complained of her people’s ingratitude and confronted them with their sins, and especially when she said, “However much you pray, however much you do, you will never be able to recompense the pains I have taken for you.”
Her tears disclose also a Mother’s infinite tenderness, as she speaks of the death of children, of impending famine, of a widening rift between her people and her Son.
Here let me mention some notable exceptions to what I wrote above about tears in the Bible. When Jacob and Esau met after years of alienation, we are told: “Esau [the offended party] ran to meet him, embraced him, and flinging himself on his neck, kissed him as he wept” (Gen. 33:4). The same language is used for the reunification of Joseph with his brothers (Gen. 45:14-15), and with his father (Gen. 46:29).
In our reading from St. Paul, the Greek word for “gift” is charisma. We often say the La Salette “charism” is reconciliation. Today’s Gospel offers that very gift, in Jesus’ words to his Apostles: “Receive the Holy Spirit: Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”
If Mary’s tears can lead us to rediscover her Son’s immense love for us, and his desire for reconciliation with us, and if we can respond in kind, then what a gift those tears are!
Wayne Vanasse and Fr. René Butler, M.S.