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Not All Tears are Bad

Thursday, November 14, 2019

By Br Thomas Thérèse, O.P.A close friend of mine says frequently, ‘not all tears are bad’. A true statement that I think can only be truly known by someone who has learnt how to grieve well, to grieve wisely.

'Dominus Flevit.' Here is the place where the Lord wept over the city of Jerusalem

A close friend of mine says frequently, ‘not all tears are bad’. A true statement that I think can only be truly known by someone who has learnt how to grieve well, to grieve wisely. I was reminded of this when I recently came across a quote by Fr. Vincent McNabb OP; ‘Worse than eyes that have too many tears are those that have none.' Tears show love. Whether it be the love one has for a new baby, with tears of joy and gratitude, or tears of loss for one who we have loved much and has loved us much.

There are different sorts of tears, different sorts of crying out. 

Scripture has many cries of lament. A crying out of grief or regretfulness and often accompanied by tears as the psalmist says ‘I bedew my bed with weeping’ or as some translations say ‘I flood my couch with weeping’ (Ps. 6:6).

The lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah come to mind, we sing them during Tenebrae (the liturgy of shadows or darkness) during Holy Week. ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord, your God’. Here the prophet cries out, and I think provides expression to the grief of God for our waywardness. These tears are a call to conversion, as are the tears wept by Jesus from Dominus Flevit – the hill where Jesus cried over the city of Jerusalem. Still however, born of love. 

It is not a bad thing to weep over our sins or of the sins of others.

In the life of St. Dominic, it is said, Dominic would be found weeping in the Church late at night asking Jesus ‘what will become of poor sinners?’. These tears of compassion for others manifest the compassion of the God who, ‘proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8) the same God who said ‘I came not to call the righteous but sinners’ (Matt 9:13). This is an expression of the fidelity of God to his people.

We see another sort of tears as Jesus cries over the death of his friend Lazarus, giving us the shortest passage in scripture ‘Jesus Wept’ (Jn 11:35).

St. Thomas Aquinas notes, when Jesus weeps over the death of his friend Lazarus, he does so to teach us something. When we see something of the human of Jesus, it also expresses something divine. For example the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross manifests and teaches us something about God – his humility and his love to name but two. His crying, St. Thomas thinks, comes from his compassion and teaches us it is okay to cry for our dead. ‘My Son, let your tears fall for the dead’ we read in Sirach.

However, it is more than this, it manifests God’s love for us, ‘see how much he loved him’ (Jn 11:36). Good tears then, I think, are tears born from love.

My friend is right when he says ‘not all tears are bad’, and I would build upon what he says ‘not all tears are bad, as Jesus taught us’. 

Br Thomas Thérèse Mannion O.P.

Br Thomas Thérèse Mannion O.P.

Br Thomas Thérèse is a student brother in simple vows, born on the Wirral. He felt called to the priesthood at an early age. Before joining the Order, he was employed in the Archdiocese of Westminster as a Catechetical and Youth Coordinator. Whilst studying Theology at Heythrop College, University of London, he stumbled across the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist which lead him to discover the Friars of the English Province on YouTube. He entered the noviciate in 2016. He enjoys Ice Skating, History of the Papacy and the writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. | thomas.mannion@english.op.org


Christine commented on 15-Nov-2019 10:02 AM
Thomas yet another great piece so proud of all you have achieved

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