Crying Ladies and Christ
Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
Preached on March 20-21, 2010 at Holy Spirit Parish/The Newman Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY
Readings: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
Crying Ladies is a 2003 Filipino film about three professional funeral criers who had plenty of things to cry about in their own lives. Stella had lost custody of her son. Doray was pining over a lost B-movie career. And Choleng had lost her good name after she had an affair with a married man. In the course of one week, these three women earned their living wailing at the wake and funeral of the late George Washington Chua. The Chua family had hired these crying ladies because of an ancient belief that the more cries of mourning their gods up there hear, the more those gods would be convinced of the goodness of the departed and the sooner they would let the dead enter into Heaven.
Two crying ladies figure prominently in today’s Gospel. But these crying ladies at the tomb of Lazarus are not professional mourners; they are his sisters Martha and Mary. These women had come before Jesus, bewailing His delay with a verse that resonates in the hearts of anyone who has lost a loved one: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (Jn. 11:21, 32). When He saw the sorrow of these crying ladies, Jesus became perturbed and deeply troubled (Jn. 11:33). Some translations say that He let out a loud groan; others that He gave out a deep sigh. It was clear that Jesus was moved by this incident, but here is His unexpected response to these crying ladies: “Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:35). In all of the New Testament, the third person singular aorist indicative active form of the Greek word δακρυω–to cry or to shed tears—appears only in John 11:35, the shortest verse in the whole Bible. “ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς.” “Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:35). At the sight of Jesus’ tears, even the Jews said, “See how He loved him” (Jn. 11:36). At that moment, the crying ladies who regretted His delay (cf. Jn. 11:21-32), the disciples who thought that He had ignored His sick friend, and the crowd that doubted the love and power of the One who had opened the eyes of the man born blind (cf. John 11:37) knew for sure that Jesus cares.
We are no different from Martha and Mary, or that Jewish crowd, or the crying ladies in the movie. We too have losses that we deal with in our lives. We have cares and concerns that crowd our minds. We have our share of troubles and trials, sins and sorrows, doubts and despair. It is at the face of all these that the crying ladies Martha and Mary remind us to do just as they did: to bring all that make us cry to Jesus. Only then will we know how much Jesus cares.
All other gods listen to the loudest wail. This Jesus Christ—this God-with-us—shares our tears.