It Was Worthwhile to have Wept!

There is “a time to weep,” says Ecclesiastes, and there are tears for each time, we might add. Tears are part of human life after original sin, and sometimes they take on a supernatural character. How?

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How interesting it would be if there were a book entitled The Theology of Weeping, in which we could study in depth what really lies behind man’s tears, the physical expression of the sentiments of his soul.

In fact, there are as many types of tears as there are different situations in life! Throughout history, so many occasions have been marked with tears, each one with its own nuances, symbolism and mysteries…

Tears for every time and place

There are those who cry from pain, or a sense of loss, hatred or fear. There are moments when anguish or sadness, satisfaction or sheer joy can turn into tears. There are even tears that express realized ideals, or dreams that will never be fulfilled. What about tears of remorse? Only those who have shed them in the presence of a great mercy, for a pardon granted, will be able to describe it! Let us recall, for example, the marvellous scene of Mary Magdalene washing the Divine Master’s feet with her tears (cf. Lk 7:38). Therefore, there are moments when it is beautiful to weep!

Even the Divine Master wept during His earthly life, and Mary Most Holy joined the Saviour’s sufferings with her tears as the Coredemptrix of the human race. What could be more sublime to ponder?

The God-Man wept over the loss of His beloved Lazarus (cf. Jn 11:35), a weeping in which He maintained all His grandeur and, at the same time, expressed all the emotion that moved Him. “See how He loved him!” (Jn 11:36), exclaimed those present in astonishment at such a spectacle of incomparable sublimity: a God mourning the death of His friend.

In this regard, Msgr. João comments with special grace: “How human, without ceasing to be God, does He show himself to be on this occasion, particularly in shedding His most precious tears along with the others. In this way, He sanctified the tears springing up from all hearts that suffer for love of God or out of remorse for their sins.1

In another episode – and in a different tenor! – Jesus wept over the hardness of heart of deicidal Jerusalem (cf. Lk 19:41), tears perhaps of disappointment and sorrow, the expression of an entirely unrequited love…

What other details can we know about Jesus’ adorable weeping? If a book on this subject existed, it would definitely be one of the most beautiful ever written on earth, possibly entitled: Jesus Wept Too.

A glance at Sacred History

From Hagar’s desperate weeping in the desert when she saw death looming (cf. Gn 21:16), to the tears of the Ephesian elders when they said their last farewell to the Apostle St. Paul (cf. Acts 20:37), Sacred Scripture offers us a wide range of examples from which we can draw valuable lessons.

With His precious tears, Our Lord sanctified the tears springing up from all hearts that suffer for love of God
“Christ carrying the Cross”, by Titian – Prado Museum, Madrid

For example, we can consider the value of a prayer bathed in sincere tears of piety, like that recited by Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, who begged in the sorrow of her barrenness for the grace of bearing a child, and she was heard, becoming the mother of the prophet Samuel (cf. 1 Sm 1:10, 20).

This gives meaning to the Psalm that exclaims: “for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping” (6:8). According to St. Augustine,2 it is the blood of the heart, that deep suffering which cannot be ignored by God and which He collects in a bottle, in the psalmist’s fitting expression (cf. Ps 56:9).

When it is God who makes us weep…

There is yet another category of weeping: that which God himself demands of certain souls, whom He nourishes with “the bread of tears” (Ps 80:5). Consider, for example, the enigmatic figure of Jephthah’s daughter (cf. Jgs 11:30-40). Condemned to die in her youth because of a promise made by her father, she asks to go to the hills to mourn her death, lamenting the fact that she will not be the ancestor of the Messiah.

It is the holocaust of the innocent, of whom the Lord is pleased to say: “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy!” (Ps 126:5). Over them hangs the divine promise of endless consolation: if on this earth they have been asked to suffer, God will “wipe away tears” (Is 25:8) in eternity.

Let us also remember one of the lamentations that most marked the history of the Church: that of the Apostle St. Peter, the sobs of a repentant traitor… On that fateful night when Our Lord Jesus Christ was imprisoned, the first Pope denied being His disciple when he was questioned in the courtyard of the high priest’s guard (cf. Mt 26:69-74). His fault was thrice repeated, in a sad fulfilment of the Divine Master’s prophecy to him: “before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times” (Mt 26:34).

However, that third denial was also the beginning of a long period of weeping, in which repentance met with forgiveness, and which endured until the end of his days. In fact, for this fault, Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Lk 22:62) until his death. According to a venerable tradition, the tears that flowed in abundance from his eyes marked his aged face with two deep furrows, in an act of reparation and uninterrupted love that allowed him to feel his heart being purified and coming closer to the Lord whom he had once denied.

An objection and fruitless weeping

Those who are not much given to emotional manifestations could object that, being of few tears, they do not identify with any of the realities set out in this article. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as there are internal haemorrhages that can cause suffering to the point of death, there is a certain type of soul that, without shedding any tears, can cry even more than those who frequently give outward manifestation to their emotion.

Furthermore, when it comes to tears, we should not confuse quantity with quality, because if that were the case, there are who would claim divine favours just for filling a sizeable receptacle with their tears. What matters here is the “blood of the heart” of those who suffer with resignation and offer everything to God, awaiting the moment of His consolation.

Finally, there are also fruitless tears, which lead to nothing, the fruit of self-love rather than love for God. These are so common in our day that we leave it to the readers to draw their own conclusions on the matter…

The poignant story of Joseph of Egypt

But before bringing these lines to an end, we invite the reader to take a closer look at a touching episode in the Book of Genesis, in which two streams of tears intersect: the story of Joseph of Egypt (cf. Gn 37-47).

As Jacob’s favourite son out of twelve, Joseph was the victim of fierce fraternal hatred, fuelled by the envy aroused by his eminent position. In fact, as well as being loved by his father, Joseph showed signs of divine predestination, and in a move of extreme cruelty he was sold into slavery by his brothers and was carried off to the distant lands of Egypt.

There, in exile among pagans, Joseph lived a true odyssey. Led by the hand of God, he went from slave to servant, from administrator to prisoner once again, and from captive to prime minister of the kingdom, almost a pharaoh. It is a breath-taking story that far surpasses any fiction of our day!

At a certain point, his family travelled to Egypt in search of provisions and found him serving as governor. It is interesting to note that this was the most dangerous phase for him: when everything was going well, Joseph could have forgotten his father and what he represented – in other words, God’s covenant with his people… Was he faithful?

The answer is found in the narration of their reencounter, in which the sacred writer does not fail to emphasize one detail: Joseph’s tears. In fact, when he recognized his brothers, it is said that he broke into such loud weeping “that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it” (Gn 45:2).

Therefore, they were that kind of copious tears that cannot be suppressed, because they come from the depths of the heart.

What was behind his sobs? We find out in the question he asks next: “Is my father still alive?” (Gen 45:3). This is the uncertainty that afflicted him! After so many years of suffering, what trials were passing through his mind? What did those tears of abandonment mean, in the midst of every disaster that befell him? The question could only be: “Does my father still love me?”

When he was finally able to embrace him in his arms, how many desolations were consoled, how many misunderstandings resolved, how many anxieties forgotten! How clear the providential nature of all his sufferings must have been to Joseph!

Jacob, the father who loves and weeps

We see, on the other hand, that Jacob had also cried. And very much!

To hide the infamy of the crime, his sons had told him that Joseph had been killed by a beast. But Jacob did not believe his son had died, perhaps sensing in him a very high plan that God wanted to fulfil. This is clear from his words when he recounts the episode of his disappearance: “and I said, Surely he has been torn to pieces; and I have never seen him since” (Gn 44:28). If he thought that Joseph had really been eaten by a beast, he would never have expected to see him again…

The sacred author allows us to glimpse in this sui generis expression “and I said” that Jacob was trying to convince himself of the tragedy that had befallen his favourite son, without understanding how God’s will for him would be fulfilled. It is easy to surmise the deep suffering this contradiction caused him, and the tears he shed every time he remembered it…

Like Joseph and Jacob, who confided in God amid their sorrow and were heard, we should place our tears in the hands of our Lady
Reencontro de José com seu pai Jacó – Batistério de São João, Florença (Itália)

Jacob’s weeping, on the other hand, fuelled his hope of seeing his lost son again, hoping that wherever he was, he would continue to be faithful.

Two messages, one same weeping

We have, then, two different situations. The father’s tears, as if saying to his son: “Persevere! Be faithful!”; and Joseph’s anguished tears: “I do not understand anything, it is all wrong, but if my father still loves me, everything will be well.

Joseph feared being forgotten by his father more than all the misfortunes that had befallen him, and Jacob feared that he had lost his son and the divine promise forever; but since both knew how to trust in God, their tears gave rise to a confirmation of hope. When these two tears met, having been purified by suffering and misunderstanding, they were transformed into a sea of consolation: “Then Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father […]. And he presented himself to him, and fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive’” (Gn 46:29-30).

This is a beautiful scene, which the Scriptures capture to teach us a lesson: weeping is normal, whatever the reason may be. But we need to supernaturalize our weeping, transform our tears into prayer, placing them in the hands of Providence and trusting that the Father’s love for us is unquenchable!

Therefore, when anguish, misunderstandings, sadness, abandonment, misunderstanding and fear assail us… let us confide our internal or external tears to the hands of Our Lady.

With our tears, She will fill a sacred chalice which, at a certain moment, She will present to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, obtaining graces for us that we cannot even imagine. Only then will we realize that it was worthwhile to weep! ◊

Taken from the Heralds of the Gospel magazine, #197.


1 CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. The Resurrection of Lazarus. In: New Insights on the Gospels. Città del Vaticano-Nobleton: LEV; Heralds of the Gospel, 2014, v.I, p.242.

2 ST. AUGUSTINE. Confessionum. L.V, c.7, n.13. In: Obras Completas. 7.ed. Madrid: BAC, 1979, v.II, p.205.

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