When was the last time you were moved to tears?
For me, one of the most memorable cries I’ve had was at a waterpark this summer. My kids were off on the rides, and I was finishing a wonderful book called “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman – in the shade on a lounge chair. Here’s a summary from the Simon and Schuster web page:
Ove is getting older. He’s the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People in Ove’s neighborhood call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But behind Ove’s cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness. When an accident-prone young couple with two young daughters moves in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox one November morning, overturning his well-ordered routine, it is the spark in a surprising, enlivening chain of events—featuring unkempt cats, unexpected friendships, arrogant bureaucrats, several trips to the hospital, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. Swept along in the tide, Ove is forced to change and learn to understand his neighbors and the modern times into which he has been grudgingly dragged. But as his neighbors learn more about the reasons behind Ove’s grumpy façade, they must also band together to protect each other and their neighborhood in a struggle that will leave no one, including Ove, unchanged.
As I sat there finishing this book, the tears were rolling down face behind my sunglasses. I wasn’t expecting that. I cried at the selflessness of the main character. I was moved recognizing someone living a life of true virtue. It got me thinking about my own life, and what I do for my family. I was blessed.
People are moved to tears in our first reading as well. About 100 years after the Babylonian Exile in 587BC, most of the Jewish population has returned home to a city destroyed. They are trying to rebuild their faith, and it’s very difficult. Nehemiah returns to his home and tries to encourage them in their faith.
When he arrives, he proclaims the word of God, explains it to them, and they weep uncontrollably. They are filled with remorse. Their hearts are moved. They change their ways.
Not so in our Gospel. Jesus stands up and also reads from the Old Testament — Isaiah 61. Glad tidings to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free. He explains the word of God to them as well.
But there are no tears here. In fact, if you continue on in Luke chapter 4, you find that people will say ‘Is this not the carpenter’s son?’ It’s just the opposite. This hometown Jesus, he’s the Messiah? Eventually, Jesus chastises them for their lack of faith, and they are so angry they chase him out of the synagogue.
One group hears the word of God and is humbled, the other gets angry and rejects the invitation.
Our hearts are moved at weddings. At the news of a car accident. When you find out your wife is pregnant. When you close the casket for the last time at your dad’s funeral. When you read an amazing book, see a great movie, hear an awesome song.
Tears, emotions, force us all to stop and say “This is important.” When you weep, it’s as if God is showing you what really matters. That whatever it is, God wants you to take a closer look. Reflect and pray. It’s part of being human. We all need to pay attention.
I think it was TS Eliot who said “If we read the newspaper – really read the newspaper – every day, we would be moved to tears.” Are there any moments we could say the same? Maybe over how we gossip a little too much, how we haven’t been a good son or daughter, maybe how the drugs, alcohol or the Internet have taken over our lives, or the lives of someone we love? Or maybe it’s a new job, a new house, a cancer beaten, a new grandchild?
God moves your heart, every single day. And we are better for it. Like the Israelites in the first reading, we are changed. We are filled with hope. Emotions help us recognize what we need to do. And with God’s help, we can. With God’s help, we do it together. That’s our second reading, in a nutshell.
When St. Ignatius of Loyola first began to celebrate Mass as a priest, he was moved to tears every single time. Tears would stream down his face as he read the Eucharistic prayer.
When was the last time you were moved to tears? When was the last time God invited you to stop and pray? When was the last time you looked out at the world as God does?