Most people who have had a conversation with me have noticed that I cry very easily, as easily as I breathe and almost as frequently. I cry tears of joy, tears of grief, tears of gratitude, tears of empathy, tears of sadness – basically any emotion can surface tears. I used to apologize until a friend told me I have the gift of tears. She pointed out several Scripture passages such as the Beatitudes in Matthew or the Letter to the Romans that instruct us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”. (12:15)
I still could not see them as a gift, though, but more like a curse. Because I cried so easily, I was quiet and withdrawn in social settings. I hated saying good-bye. I resisted public speaking, especially if it meant sharing something personal. If I cried in front of people who did not know me, they were embarrassed and apologized for upsetting me. Sometimes others would try to lighten the mood by making a joke about my tears. Neither made me feel any more comfortable.
Then I became involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in my parish as a sponsor. Sharing personal stories was the bedrock of our process, especially as we broke open and discussed the Sunday Scripture readings. The members of the group were open, supportive and affirming. Witnessing others share their stories, with or without tears, helped me to open up and share mine as well, although a box of tissues was as much a part of those sessions for me as my Bible. I became more comfortable if I shed tears in that setting, but it was still difficult for me outside of that very close-knit group. When my involvement led to introducing the various Rites at Mass as well as an annual educational presentation to the parish, I had to become comfortable as a public speaker. I thought if I practiced what I was going to say enough I could get the tears out of my system, but that didn’t always work.
Then one year, as we were approaching Easter, one of our candidates died. I was asked by the family to serve as lector at her funeral. As I stood at the front of the community, trying to read through the distortion caused by my tears and trying to proclaim the Word with my voice cracking, I realized I no longer saw the tears as a curse. I was no longer trying to hide them or hold them back, which never seemed to work anyhow. I was freely sharing the gift with the RCIA groups and now with the wider community. In this moment, they were an expression of my solidarity with those who were grieving. When I cried as I celebrated the various Rites and sacraments with the group each year, my tears were an expression of my solidarity with their joy.
It is not uncommon for tears to well up when I proclaim Scripture or read the intercessions, when I am sharing the story of St. Anthony’s, when I am serving as a Eucharistic minister, or when I am sharing with others on retreat. If my tears soften my heart or someone else’s heart, they are a gift from God. If my tears wash away my pain or help ease another’s pain, they are a gift from God. If my tears help someone else feel a bit more comfortable shedding their own tears, they are a gift from God. This gift of tears enables me to connect with others, to share their journey and to support them, in a genuine and unique way.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
I can now appreciate the gift I have been given and allow it to use me. So when you see me cry, know that it is a good thing and you don’t need to be embarrassed or apologize. Just accept the gift and be grateful – I am.
We have all received many gifts from God. Some are readily apparent, others are less obvious, and some we may think of as more curse than gift because we do not yet understand God’s design. What gifts have you received? How have you used them to serve God and the common good? Is there a gift you have received that you are hesitant to share with others? How might sharing that gift serve, or help you connect with, other members of the Body of Christ?
– Marge Lindell