Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Martyrdom of John the Baptist

Not long ago, on a gray afternoon in January perhaps it was, I was kneeling after Mass in a pew near a statue of St. Joseph, praying. St. Anne’s, where I attend weekday Mass, is a large church, and across the expanse of nearly empty pews, in the distance was a woman on her knees before the tabernacle weeping and wailing and crying out to Jesus, with her arms outstretched in profound grief and sorrow, beating the air.

Her child had just died. His death was announced during the Mass.

As I absorbed her sobs, as her fists pounded the chambers of my own heart, and I filled with her grief, I was given to understand something about why Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus. His tears were an expression of sorrow for the pain suffered by those who grieved. His heart was filled by the suffering of those who suffered and He was brought to tears.

He was not weeping for Himself.

This is why He did not weep upon hearing of the death of John the Baptist, a death that foreshadowed His own impending death. The death of the one who’d leapt for joy in the womb upon encountering Him, so deeply attuned was John to the life of the Holy One in his midst, so fully available to receive Him in his heart’s embrace, the one whom Our Lord proclaimed to be the greatest among men who’d ever lived. Surely, that loss would be worth weeping over, and yet He did not weep for it because when He wept, He was not weeping for Himself.

And we must also recall that during His ascent to Calvary, along the way of the cross, Jesus met with a cluster of holy women who were weeping for Him. What did He say to them? He said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and your children.” (Luke 23:28)… which was another way of saying, do as I have done.

In that case, it is not wrong to weep for oneself, for Christ has wept for our pain. But something else I have learned is that in following Him, in doing as He has done, through time one comes to cease weeping for oneself and one weeps only for others and their pain. In doing as He has done, one is like John, that greatest of all men, weeping not for himself over the martyrdom and cross that is his own, but trusting in the One who has wept for us.

No comments:

Post a Comment