A Theology of Tears

Mar 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Life can be and often is a valley of tears. Who can deny the realities of tragedy and senselessness, stories of children being orphaned or abused. Stories of late night phone calls informing you of to come immediately to the hospital or a visit from the authorities informing you of the loss of a loved one. Or what of children born without limbs or little ones diagnosed with a terminal disease!!! Just read the papers or watch the news or look around your neighborhoods to see and learn of the plight of man and woman, boy and girl, young and old, powerful and poor. To borrow some lines from the cinema, “Time is chasing after all of us. And as hard as we try to outrun time, time will indeed close in on all of us. We all become in the end nothing more than food for worms and fertilizer for daffodils.”

Is this not the sentiment expressed by the Preacher?

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to happen among those who come after. (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3,11).

For of the wise man as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise man dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a striving after wind. (2:16-17).

For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again (3:19-20).

Indeed all is vanity and all is pointless, at least from a purely materialistic perspective. There is great grief in this world because this world has been infected by a foreign invader, namely sin and death. Sin and death are enemies, not our friends (1st Cor 15). Sin and death are not “things” we come to grips with, they are realities that need to be defeated.

When we look at life from a purely materialistic perspective, in short, as if this world is all there is, there are two basic postures we can take. One is to try to indulge ourselves with every whim and desire and attempt to make the best of a bad situation to find happiness. The other is to prefer death and non-existence for life is intolerable.

It is so easy to beat up the Existentialist, especially in its nihilistic form, yet, is that fair? It seems to me that apart from the belief in the One True and ever living God who has made Himself known in this world through Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the nihilist is brutally honest about life and the way things appear to be. Indeed, apart from the revelation of God in Christ by the Spirit, then all would be vanity, pure vanity. Indeed this God is not the god who creates a world and then sits back and watches, in the words of the popular song, “from a distance”. This God is not the god who “runs” the world as an absentee landlord. No, this God is not a tame god and He is not a god that fits into our neat little categories. This God is not ashamed to be brought to the condition of the crushed and lowly. This God is not ashamed to take up residence in the womb of a Virgin. This God is not ashamed to call us His friends. This God is not ashamed to have nowhere to lay His head. This God is not ashamed to shed tears at the death of His friend. This God is not ashamed to weep over the city He loves. This God is not ashamed to cry in the garden drops of blood. This God is not ashamed to identify with the sinner and the forsaken by dying the death of forsakeness on a Friday afternoon. This God is not ashamed to give of His flesh and His blood as our food and drink for the life of the world. Indeed this God, the God we worship as Christians, indeed as Catholics, is not ashamed to meet with us everyday especially in the liturgy and say, “This is My Body broken for you, Take and eat, this is My Blood poured out for you, take and drink.”

Indeed, time is chasing after all of us and eventually overtakes us and then we become food for the worms. And if that were the final word, “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” But there is something more real than that. Indeed this reality defines and makes sense of all other reality. The God who is outside of Time has entered into time and gave of His flesh and blood for the life of the world. He gave His flesh and blood to us to be our food, the food that is the medicine of immortality. Indeed this is the God we celebrate this Lenten Season. This is the God who comes to us. This is the God who desires, as Pope Benedict recently reminded us, that we rid ourselves of the illusion of self-sufficiency. This is the God who enters our humanity and redeems it from the inside out and dare we say, invites us, poor, pitiable and feeble sinners that we are, to participate in His suffering in order to complete it, to fill it out, that in my suffering, your suffering, He is carrying out His redemption, in and through us.

Nothing is in vain, nothing, not a drop of suffering, as hard as it is, is wasted! As the late Monsignor Luigi Giussani said, “God took pity on our nothingness.” Why? He adds, “That He might give us everything.” This is the God not ashamed to shed some tears!!! And this is the God, who on that day, shall wipe clean every tear, and behold, make all things new!

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