God cries over His people
“For Christ had compassion upon the Jews, who wills that all men should be saved. Which had not been plain to us, were it not revealed by a certain mark of His humanity. For tears poured forth are the tokens of sorrow.” (St. Cyril of Alexandria). Br. Reginald reflects on how the tears of Christ are an opportunity for Christians to enter into the mystery of the compassion of God upon His people.
Readings: Luke 19:41-44
The following homily was preached to the student brothers during compline. You can listen here or read below:
If I’m completely honest, I really hate crying. There’s something about being overwhelmed by emotion and having the “mess” of tears covering your face and having to then get a tissue and wipe myself that feels quite humiliating even when I am by myself. I often end up feeling rather disappointed in myself that I wasn’t able to stop myself reaching the point of tears or that something was able to move me to this point. That is why to me, reading this Gospel of Christ “shedding tears” is quite perplexing. The Lord of Lords and the King of kings is moved to tears. I think that this serves as a reminder of how real Christ’s humanity was that God was crying. I don’t know if he had to wipe his nose afterwards or if he sobbed loudly, but in any case there’s something strange, at least in my mind about the fact that Christ was crying. It seems to me then, that this physical and really very human action of Christ is an invitation to reflect on the fact that this crying is a manifestation of an ineffable compassion for His people. The compassion of the heart of our God which we cannot fathom is revealed incarnationally in the humanity of Christ when he cries.
Our Lord is crying here over the state and future of Jerusalem, the holy city. “They will dash you and the children inside your walls to the ground…. all because you did not recognise your opportunity when God offered it!” Again, I find this very alarming. Is God not at least in part responsible for this? It is not as if He is powerless to stop this if He mind so much. If this is to fulfil justice then surely God’s own justice cannot move Himself to tears? I think the only way for us to approach this is to see this as an invitation into the mystery of God. God at once desires justice, while “wishing all to be saved.” God does not rejoice in any of His children being lost. Indeed, He loves us so much to give His only Son to die for us. The Lord is moved to tears because He wishes to save them so much that He will give His life for all in Jerusalem and yet so many of them are still lost. That this is enough to make Jesus cry speaks volumes about the compassion He has on each soul. I do think that God gives each and every person the graces they require, the opportunities they need to come into right relation to Him. For He came that all may have the fulness of life, and He is glorified when a person a fully alive. He rejoices together with the angels at each step of repentance and turning towards Him and we see today too that He weeps when the opposite is the case.
As members of the Church, the mystical body of Christ we are called to enter into the mystery and to allow Christ’s tears to become our own tears. As temples of the Spirit, we become a Jerusalem, a city where God in in-dwelling. When we examine our walls and ramparts, how often do we see that it is full of sin. Jesus in becoming incarnate is so intimate with us in a shared humanity that despite being without sin, prays the words of the psalm with us “my sin overwhelms me”. When our sins overwhelm us, Christ’s tears, becoming our tears are the occasion to turn to Him in hope. Yes the victory has been won by His cross and resurrection, but this is more reason to be moved as we have been cleansed by no less than the blood of our God. Often we are disappointed at ourselves when we commit a sin, often out of pride because we haven’t lived up to our own expectation. I think that real repentance is to sorrow with Christ at our sins. This is painful, difficult and is the work of grace, but we can reflect and pray for that grace and reflect upon how we live our lives. St. Paul in His letter to the Ephesians tells them not to live in a way that will make the Holy Spirit sad.
We are called also to weep with Christ for the offenses of the Church, not because we think ourselves better than other Christians, but because we desire with Christ for the whole body of Christ to be saved. We are called to look at the scandal of schism, division and sin within the Church with the same eyes with which Christ looks at the holy city. We weep in expectation and hope because we have a God who is willing to weep for His children and for His city. We weep knowing in hope that in God’s time, the bride His Church will be made ready for the marriage feast and we shall be told “There is no need to cry: the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed, and he will open the scroll and the seven seals of it.”
For now let us enter into the mystery that is the compassion of the incarnate God, so that living a life in conformity with our being conformed to Him at baptism we may “make known to His people their salvation through forgiveness of all their sins. The loving-kindness of the heart of our God who visits us like the dawn from on high.” Amen.