The Gift of Tears

787px-Sépulcre_Arc-en-Barrois_111008_12Two men walked into church this morning.  The first was a well-known and well-liked person.  Everyone in the community knew he was a good guy.  He always had great answers for everyone’s questions, and he really seemed like one of those people who had it all together.

The second person was a convicted pedophile.  Everyone knew about him as well.  They knew that he was a registered sex offender, a drunk who sometimes beat his wife and kids, and an all around foul man.

The first man peered over at the second and looked up to Heaven and said in his heart, “God, I thank you that I am not like that man.  I am not a pedophile, I don’t get drunk, I don’t beat my wife and kids, and I don’t lose my temper and start screaming obscenities.”

The second man fell to his knees.  Tears ran down his face and he whispered, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  He was so overwhelmed with grief that he could not even look up toward Heaven.  Instead he bowed his head as round after round of tears shook his body.

I tell you the truth, only one man left the church justified before God that day, and it wasn’t the first man.  All who humble themselves will be exalted, and all who exalt themselves will be humbled (Luke 18:9-14).

Tears are a gift

To be able to mourn for our sins is a gift from God.  The Church Fathers referred to this as the second baptism, which they taught is even more important than the first baptism.  This past Sunday was called Repentance Sunday in the Orthodox Church.  It is the Sunday in which we are taught to be like the second man in the parable of Jesus which I revised above.

May we humble ourselves before God so that he can heal us and lift us up.

2 thoughts on “The Gift of Tears

  1. Sr. Deana Marie Burnham OSB December 30, 2022 — 12:40 am

    Fr Jeremy, You went too far using the man who was a pedophile. These folks are hardened repeat offenders with the most callous sadistic pathology. They are not ever likely to “shake” with tears of emotion. When you changed scripture,
    you inaccurately characterized the penitent and pictured him, the violent woman beating sociopathic child rapist as simply capable of walking into a church and repenting. That is so unrealistic it’s nauseating and insults the reader’s awareness of those who are not open to change, help, or any form of true remorse. Imagine if only once he raped a child, the incredible pain he caused. Thats not a man who suddenly is struck by lighting and a sense of humanity and the reality of God’s grace and forgiveness.
    No. Your terrible example is a person who would remove himself from society and consider himself unfit to live with other human beings. He’d be concerned about protecting others from himself.
    But that’s highly unlikely. In my opinion Jesus Christ did a far better job with whim? A tax collector?
    Sister Deana Marie Burnham OSB

    1. Dear Sister Deana,

      There’s a significant difference between “changing” scripture and retelling a scriptural story in a modern way. In the first case, scripture is changed to try to justify immorality or heresy. But the second is an attempt to get people to see the same story in a new way. It’s easy for us to read the Publican and Pharisee parable, pat ourselves on the back, and say, “At least I’m not like that Pharisee.” The point of retelling the story is to help us to stop doing that.

      The way I described the repentant man was my attempt to come up with the worst possible person I could imagine – someone that most Christians and non-Christians would loathe. From your comment, it seems I succeeded. This was written in 2013. At that time, there was no attempt to normalize pedophilia like we are starting to see in America today. If I had written this today, I may have done so differently.

      Only God knows who is open to change, who can repent and who won’t. It’s best we don’t play God and judge entire categories of people as being lost causes. I agree that pedophiles will likely not be able to change in an instant – most people don’t no matter what their sin is. Perhaps they will have to live cautiously and with a high level of accountability for the rest of their lives. But we shouldn’t write them off as lost causes because we find their sin to be abhorrent.

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