- How would you have answered the little girl’s question?
- During this crisis caused by COVID-19, have you found yourself occasionally in tears? What are your tears about?
- How do you understand the Pope’s assertion that if you can’t learn to weep, you’re not a good Christian?
Learn to Weep
When Jesus saw her weeping, and those who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. … Jesus began to weep. - John 11:33, 35 (NRSV)
Several years ago, in an unscripted moment, a little girl in Manila asked the visiting Pope Francis why God allows children to suffer. She had just told him in front of a million people that she scrounged food from the garbage and slept outside on a cardboard mat.
Here’s what the Pope did. He enfolded the sobbing child in his arms. Then he admonished everyone to quiet down and pay close attention because, he said, “She has just asked the one question with no answer.”
When the crowd hushed, he said to her, "We can’t answer you now. 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 that the world needs to weep. The marginalized weep, the scorned weep, the sick and dying weep – but we who are privileged, we don't always know how. We must learn. The Pope concluded, saying, “If you don't learn to weep, you're not a good Christian.”
In these awful days of virus-related illness and death, whenever we’re asked why these things happen, let’s not be quick to answer. Let’s take Pope Francis’ advice. Enfold first, and hush. Then say a word. A word born of tears.
Give us tears, O God, so that we may perceive clearly; and perceiving, join each other in suffering; and in joining, be moved to love in deed.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.