By Sister alies therese
Lent has begun and we celebrate the glorious season of weeping. What? Really? Yes, and it will end with Easter where we challenge all the death-dealing we have pronounced evil and emerge on the other side of Holy Week weeping for joy!
What makes us weep? What moves the heart so profoundly that we cannot hold back the tears? I have wept at the deathbed of a young boy; in our torn community after an F4 tornado devastated us; at the awesomeness of the stars; at Pope Francis in Chile ministering to the women in prison or the people of the Amazon in Peru, and certainly in the face of my own sin and thoughtlessness.
Turn your thoughts, too to tears of amazement when someone trusted you for the first time, or when you experienced some sort of conversion, or when you fell in love. Turn your gaze toward small acts of kindness that begin to redress the hatred of the past. Turn your heart toward the full-on mercy of Jesus, wanting to love and reach out to all people no matter their country, era, or ethnic background. The mercy of Jesus weeps over sex-abuse of every form. Jesus weeps over oppression, persecution and hatred that galvanizes estrangement and solidifies anguish behind walls of terror. Do you weep with Him? Look around, pay attention, show up and see what makes you weep.
Here are three examples that touched me in some recent reading and prayer. Perhaps, even in their diversity, you will be moved to notice more deeply what makes you weep and those tears can become a pathway for a deeper and more authentic living from your heart this Lent.
The first comes from St. Faustina, her diary, Notebook VI, the last entry in 1803 before her death:
“One day, when I was preparing for Holy communion and noticed I had nothing to offer Him, I fell at His feet, calling down all His mercy upon my poor soul: may Your grace, which flows down upon me from Your compassionate heart, strengthen me for the struggle and sufferings, that I may remain faithful to You. Lord, although I am such misery, I do not fear You, because I know Your mercy well. Nothing will frighten me away from You, O God, because everything is so much less than what I know Your mercy to be – I see that clearly.”
St. Faustina wept and her tears brought out the living mercy of Jesus not only for her but for us all.
In a wonderful book called More Beautiful than Before: How Suffering Transforms Us by Jewish Rabbi Steve Leder, we find this wonderful and compassionate story about weeping:
“Chris Abani is a Nigerian dissident, author, and storyteller. ‘What I’ve come to learn,’ he says, ‘is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion, everyday acts of compassion…during the Biafran War…it was my mother with five little children. It takes her one year, through refugee camp after refugee camp, to make her way to an airstrip where we can fly out of the country. At every single refugee camp, she has to face off soldiers who want to take my older brother Mark, who was 9, and make him a boy-soldier. Can you imagine a 5’2” woman, standing up to men with guns who want to kill us?
All through that year, that one year, my mother, never cried one time, not once. But when we were in Lisbon, in the airport, about to fly to England, this woman who saw my mother wearing this dress, which had been washed so many times it was basically see-through, with five really hungry looking kids, came over and asked what had happened. And she told this woman. And so this woman emptied out her suitcase and gave all her clothes to my mother, and to us…that was the only time she wept. And I remember years later I asked her…’why did you cry then?’ She said, ‘You know, you can steel your heart against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror. But the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you.’”
In Rev. Gary Commin’s book If only We could See, he shares the weeping of Servant of God Dorothy Day:
“…Dorothy Day recalls a profound epiphany on a Manhattan bus. Reading the forward of Thomas Merton’s Contemplative Prayer, she found a quote from William Blake about ‘beams of love.’
‘Suddenly I remembered coming home from a meeting in Brooklyn many years ago, sitting in an uncomfortable bus seat facing a few poor people. One of them, a downcast, ragged man, suddenly epitomized for me the desolation, the hopelessness of the destitute, and I began to weep. I had been struck by one of those ‘beams of love,’ wounded by it in a most particular way.”
This Lent, not unlike the many before, calls us to consider what we shall weep over and what we shall seek to set right. First perhaps we have to look at Jesus and see where mercy lies and then discover the beams of love that have touched us and pass them along. What a joy. Blessings…
(Sister Alies Therese is a vowed Catholic solitary who lives an eremitical life. Her days are formed around prayer, art and writing. She is author of six books of spiritual fiction and is a weekly columnist. She lives and writes in Mississippi.)