EYES THAT HAVE CRIED
"Weep with those who weep."
"Jesus began to weep."
Last week, as you know, I was at the Kairos Conference in Johannesburg. You can read about it in the recent Volmoed Newsletter where you can also see Alyson's wonderful painting of the women in Jerusalem who journeyed with Jesus to the cross. And, of course, I was there, in the Catholic Cathedral in Soweto when Alyson's painting was displayed in public for the first time. But let me recount another experience I had on the previous evening of the Conference. We were all entertained by the Mayor of Johannesburg at a splendid banquet held in the Sandton Conference Centre. It was the first time that I had been there, and what a huge and splendid place it turned out to be! And I was honoured to be asked to sit at the Mayor's table, which made it even more special for me. At the end of the banquet we bordered the bus that was to take us back to our hotel in Empire Road near the University of Johannesburg, and I found myself sitting next to a Palestinian Christian woman from Jerusalem whom I had met earlier in the day.
During the next half hour, as we journeyed along the darkened highways of the city, she poured out her soul to me about the situation she faced every day of her life in East Jerusalem as a result of the Israeli occupation, and the ongoing settler confiscation of Palestinian property and land. She told me about her family and what was happening to young Palestinians she knew, about the way in which they were humiliated and were losing hope. As she did so, I became aware that she was crying like the women of Jerusalem cried on the way to the cross and at its foot. Her story was too painful to tell without tears. The next day, during one of the sessions, someone remarked: "some things can only be seen through eyes that have cried." I knew this already, because everyone who has lost a child or someone dear to them knows its truth. But its truth was reinforced for me in a new way.
In his letter to the Romans Paul describes the marks of a true Christian. We read the passage this morning. It begins with the words "Let love be genuine" and then in a few terse, but telling sentences, Paul describes how such love works itself out in practice. Amongst these is his injunction that we should not only "rejoice with those who rejoice," but "weep with those who weep." I have always thought that we should cry with those who cry in order to express our empathy and solidarity, which is, of course, true. But now I also see that it is only as we weep with those who weep that we begin to see things that have been previously hidden and obscured. For "some things can only be seen through eyes that have cried." And that is undoubtedly true in Palestine and in all places of suffering.
Jesus once said that those who weep now are blessed, and he himself regularly wept. He wept over Jerusalem, he wept in Gethsemane, and he wept with Mary and Martha at the tomb of their brother Lazarus in Bethany not far from Jerusalem. As we read from the gospel: 'When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord come and see," and Jesus began to weep.' As Jesus saw reality through their eyes, he began to weep with them. So it is that our solidarity with those who nightly shed tears and daily cry until their eyes are empty of moisture, only starts when we see their world through their weeping and our weeping with them.
As the rain poured down early on Tuesday morning and I looked out of our bedroom window at the Hemel en Aarde Valley, it was difficult to see the trees and the contours of the land. The rain almost blotted out the view as do tears when we are crying. But the rain also washed away the dust as do tears cleanse our sight. And as heaven's tears ceased so I saw the valley clothed with a crisp freshness and I could see it with a new clarity. Such are the AHA moments that come when we weep with those who weep. And while it was still raining in the early hours of Tuesday morning Isobel wrote this poem mindful of the meditation I was preparing:
Looking through Tears
You see the view through spectacles,
spectacles that colour the scene,
a highlight here, but too dark in that corner to see,
tilting the view and infusing all with a deceptive glow,
making well what is not well.
But some see the same view through tears,
tears that spring from experience,
that do not blur the scene,
but that clarify reality;
tears that flow like a river of redemption.
When we are tempted to switch off the TV or change channels in order to avoid seeing the horrors that confront us even in our lounges far from reality on the ground, we should pause for a moment because we are glimpsing, even if only remotely, the suffering in the eyes and through the tears of those who are living through today's terrible traumas. For it is only then that we can weep with those who weep even in our comfort zones. How true that is as we try to understand the plight of all those who suffer in our own time, whether in South Africa or Syria, the Philippines or Palestine, or in Alexander Township which was so near and yet so far from the Sandton Conference where we had that splendid dinner last week. The truth is, we see and understand the reality of their plight only when we begin to see it through their tears, "when we weep with those who weep."
As the final chapters in the Bible in the book of Revelation draw to a close; after we have read about the struggle between the faithful followers of Christ and the Roman Empire -- and all empires from then until now; after we have read about the ravages of war and the suffering of the saints -- as though what we have read has been written again for us today, written to help us weep with the women of Jerusalem and everyone in all corners of the globe where tears are shed, we come to these words of encouragement and hope:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,,, and I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven...and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying:
See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God,
they will be his peoples,
and God will be with them,
and he will wipe every tear from their eyes... (Rev.21:1-4)
John de Gruchy
Volmoed 27 August 2015