When we see people suffer, when we contemplate the scale of misery and grief, it seems right to feel sorry for them: to pity their circumstances, and the trauma that we’re observing. For tears of lament are often the only compassion we can offer from a distance; and the best way we have to express our empathy.
Why, then, does Our Lord speak so roughly to the women who are doing what is so natural? Why does He rebuke them for their tears? And why does He tell them to turn inward, to weep for themselves and for their children?
Our Lord is not unmindful of grief. He wept when He saw Lazarus’ tomb. He wept when He foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem. But now, at this time, He calls not for tears of pity or lament, not even for tears of compassion, but for tears of repentance.
Tears of repentance. That is what Our Lord asks for.
Yet, at this time, why must we repent?
- Certainly, because of our lack of care and concern.
- Because we have been more anxious and less prayerful.
- Because we are not using this long Lent to our greatest spiritual advantage.
- Because we are focusing more on the pandemic and less on Our Lord’s mercy.
- And, perhaps, because we are using this unsettling time as an excuse to set aside our Lenten fast, our Lenten devotion, and our Lenten sacrifice of self.
Repentance is authentic and real when it is practiced even when, especially when, our routine is thrown off. Repentance is authentic and real when it asks more of us, and requires greater sacrifice. And repentance is authentic and real when what we refuse to deal with confronts us.
That is what Our Lord foresees when he looks at the weeping women. He sees that, soon, they will face a crisis. A crisis much greater than any we feel now. A crisis that will require greater sacrifice, and to confront what they ultimately pin their hopes to.
Our Lord foresees, not just because He knows all. He foresees, because He is suffering through all present and future sufferings as He treads with the cross to Golgotha. And so His words are not words of pride. He’s not saying that their weeping is pointless because He is manly and can do this and so doesn’t need their pity. Rather, Our Lord says, “Weep not for me,” because He knows that genuine, authentic, real tears of contrition will help them and us, much more than feeling sorry for His trauma, His suffering, His impending death.
Tears of compassion express our empathy. But tears of repentance cleanse the soul. They guide us to look beyond, to look for hope. Most of all, tears of repentance help us to commit to the change, the amendment, the transformation of our life so that we can attain greater things. Not just getting past this pandemic, but getting closer to our heavenly goal.
Afterall, that’s why Jesus is on the road of suffering. That’s why the women meet Him and weep for Him in the first place. He’s not suffering for a cause, or going to death to prove a point. He’s there to renew their reason for being, to restore their life in God, and to transform them into persons well suited for His heavenly kingdom.
He’s doing His part. It’s the greatest part, and the greatest sacrifice. And instead of sympathy and lament, He simply asks us to offer tears of authentic and real repentance.
Those tears are good. But they must also be converted into acts of sacrifice.
- Sacrificing our self-pity by reaching out to others. Sacrificing our pride by doing what is best for others.
- Sacrificing our anxiety by putting unwavering trust in Our Lord.
- Sacrificing our desires by offering more prayers.
- And even sacrificing our life, when needed, by willingly drawing near to minister to another.
Tears of repentance. Which then turn to deeds of love. Which in turn focus our hearts and minds where they are designed to be—on following Our Lord in the way of the Cross. That’s Our Lord’s gentle and tender word to the women, and to us now and when we are enabled to gather again.