The Women on the way of the Cross: The Women Who Weep for Jesus
It is not enough to shed tears over the world’s evils.
by Melicia Antonio | Source:
In a 2005 conference in San Jose, screenwriter and Act One executive director Barbara Nicolosi asked her Catholic audience, “I want to run by you what I think is the real problem in the media today, the real heart and core of the sickness that is in our popular culture… How many times in the last month have you seen something on television, or heard something on the radio or seen something in the newspaper that really rankled you? Something that offended you as a believer?” All hands went up, except for two. “So, you all think,” she continued, "that’s the problem. Here‘s the problem: how many of you, when you saw that moment, stopped, and said a prayer for the conversion of that filmmaker, writer, or producer, asking God to send them an angel, a witness, an apostle…that they would find the Lord?”
One hand went up.
“That’s the problem.”
Had Ms. Nicolosi further asked “How many of you have taken concrete action for the evangelization of Hollywood: to contact the makers of media and voice your beliefs, and to support the education and work of Catholic artists?” would any hand have been raised?
Tears and complaints at the sight of evil have their value, no doubt. When the wailing women encountered Jesus, he was a terrible sight. The scourges had lacerated his skin and flesh; bruises and spittle disfigured his face. If the sight of his blood could incite inhumane rage in his captors, how much more could it evoke pity in the eyes of these compassionate women!
The women, like Veronica, felt helpless and perhaps angry. Wailing was their way of expressing disapproval of injustice and solidarity with affliction. Hardly did they expect the Afflicted One to turn and say, “Do not weep for me. Weep for yourselves and your children.”
In 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote of the eighth station, “Hearing Jesus reproach the women of Jerusalem who follow him and weep for him ought to make us reflect. How should we understand his words? Are they not directed at a piety which is purely sentimental, one which fails to lead to conversion and living faith? It is no use to lament the sufferings of this world if our life goes on as usual.”
“Here is a call to repentance,” John Paul II wrote in his 2003 Way of the Cross, “true repentance, and sorrow at the reality of the evil that has been committed. Jesus says to the daughters of Jerusalem who are weeping at the sight of him: "Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children" (Lk 23:28). One cannot merely scrape away at the surface of evil; one has to get down to its roots, its causes, the inner truth of conscience.”
Jesus wants our tears to water our own hard ground and make it bear fruit. He appeals to these women to not let his blood be shed in vain -“lest the cross be emptied of its power”- but to change the world by changing their own hearts and the hearts of their children. He begs them to look first at their own lives and see where his message has not yet penetrated, where it has not yet transformed the way they think, act, and react.
Of the tears of the weeping women, Archbishop Angelo Comastri wrote: “….tears are not enough. Tears must overflow into love that nurtures, strength that gives direction, firmness that corrects, dialogue that builds, a presence that speaks! Tears must prevent other tears!”
It reminds me of a mother whose beloved daughter and son-in-law were murdered some years ago. As much as it hurt, she forgave the killer, because, “If I had not forgiven him, he would have killed me, too.” It was a painful way to learn “love your enemies”, but necessary for breaking the cycle of hate and restoring the experience of God’s love to both sides.
Jesus gratefully accepts the gift of tears. But like all things he accepts, he purifies it, and directs the heart toward a greater love for God and neighbor. This Holy Week, let's dig deep into the “inner truth” of our consciences. What evil does God allow us to see? What does he want us to do about it?