"When Jesus saw her weeping, and those with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved… and Jesus began to weep." - John 11:33-35
A little girl asked him why God lets children suffer—asked Pope Francis, that is, in Manila last January. "Terrible things happen to children," she told him through tears. "It’s not their fault. Why does God permit it?"
It was an entirely unscripted question. So was his answer.
He didn’t correct her theology or otherwise attempt to pacify Glyzelle Palomar who, in front of a million people, had just told him that she scrounged food from garbage and slept outside on a cardboard mat.
Here’s what he did. He enfolded the sobbing child in his arms. Then he admonished everyone to pay close attention because, he said, "She has just asked the one question with no answer."
To her he said, "Only when we are able to weep about the things you have lived will we understand anything and be able to answer you."
Then he taught the crowd, "The world needs to weep. The marginalized weep, the scorned weep, but we who are more or less without needs, we don't know how. We must learn. There are realities in this life you can see only with eyes cleansed and clarified by tears… If you don't learn to weep, you're not a good Christian!"
Whenever we’re asked the question with no answer, "Our answer must first be silence, and then a word born of tears."
Give us tears, O God, so that we may see; and seeing, join each other in suffering; and in joining, be moved to love in deed.
Mary Luti is Interim Senior Pastor, Wellesley Village Church, Wellesley, Massachusetts.