Friday, March 15, 2013

The Tears of Jesus

Reflections on the Readings
Fifth Sunday of Lent - March 17, 2013 - Year A Scrutinies
The Year of Faith 

The Tears of Jesus

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept.

I'm beginning this Reflection remembering a sorrowful and tearful time that happened July 16, 1995. Only a night or two before that fateful and intensely hot summer Sunday in 1995 I saw my mother in a dream. She was dressed in white and ascending into the heavens. I knew her battle with Lou Gehrig's was nearing the end.  

Arriving at the Funeral Home, I asked to be alone. Graciously, my wife and the Funeral director, closed the door and left me alone with my mother. It had taken 12 hours to make it to south Arkansas from southern Indiana. I felt a deep need to be the first person at the Funeral Home before the evening visitation began. After all, I was the first-born son. But something else, something deep inside me was pushing me to get there as soon as possible. Grief not yet released was locked up in my heart. 

Standing before the coffin where my mother lay, a lifetime of love, and memories, and son and mommy talks, paraded through my heart. With these came a torrent of tears unlocking the grief that squeezed my heart. I lifted my face toward heaven and raised my hands in prayer. My tears flowed freely mingled with anger, and grief, and thanksgiving. Anger, because of the enemy called death took my mother away from us. Grief, because of the deep loss I felt in the pit of my stomach. And my heart overflowed with thanksgiving because of love. The gift of a faithful and godly mother makes memories that never fade.

There are three moments in scripture that speak of Jesus shedding tears. Jesus expressing the emotion of shedding tears speaks deeply of the reality of the Incarnation. In his flesh Jesus participated in all of the alienation and heartache of humanity. So we see Christ, one with us, God in flesh, shedding tears.

Coming to the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus is deeply moved in his spirit. Our Lord feels the tentacles of death in his person and expresses his indignation with death in deep guttural sounds. Seeing the place where Lazarus is entombed, Jesus weeps. He weeps at this awful scene of disruption and heartache. The sacred ties of friendship and family now severed by death is highlighted by the sacred tears that flow down the face of the Son of Man. 

The poignancy of this scene is not lost by some observing who say, "See how he loved him!" Tears are like liquid words. They cannot be uttered; they can only flow unspoken upon the cheek. Jesus weeps for the loss exacted by an enemy he intends to defeat. Thus he assures Martha, "Your brother will rise again."

Jesus also wept over the city of Jerusalem.(Luke 19:41) Matthew records Jesus saying, "How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" His tears over the City of David expressed the deep attachment he felt to the people he first brought up out of Egyptian bondage. He was to them a Pillar of Fire by night and a Pillar of Cloud by day. He was the rock in the wilderness from which came life giving water for the children of Israel. And now, the Shepherd of her history, weeps as the Good Shepherd of the lost sheep of the House of Israel. 

During our Lord's Passion we know from the Gospel accounts that our Lord prayed intensely in the garden. It is the writer of the Book of Hebrews that gives us the depth and magnitude of that time of agonizing prayer. We read: In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.(Hebrews 5:7) Christian tradition recounts: And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.(included in some translations of Scripture as Luke 24:43, 44) 

Our Lord wept with those who wept. He shed tears of love for those whom he came to save. The love of Jesus is not something he kept inside of himself, rather he poured out his heart so that from the cross he cried out in the midst of his saving anguish, "Father! Forgive them, for they know not what they do." The soldier pierced the Lord's side with his lance and from the riven side of Jesus flowed blood and water; tears from deep within the Son of God.

"A quote attributed to Washington Irving reminds us, "There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love." But in that day when time shall be no more, He who is the uncontested victor over death, hell, and the grave, shall wipe every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more. For the former things will be no more. 

And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at   His website is:


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