The Next Forty Days, Day 13–Jesus Wept

The shortest verse in the bible is in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verse 35. “Jesus wept.” Two words. I first learned about this verse when my father told us the story about how he and his siblings each had to say a bible verse before they could eat dinner. One night, my father said, “Jesus wept,” and my uncle Ed, his older brother, fresh out of memorized versus followed up with, “He sure did.” I think that night Uncle Eddie probably didn’t get any supper.

So, Jesus wept. I’m thinking it was not great gulping sobs as one might envision, but simple tears of compassion and grief for the suffering he saw before him in the people around him. I can’t help but believe that if he were to look across the landscape of the world today, he would probably still be weeping. Jesus is not here in the corporeal sense, but people of compassion and spirit, we who believe in love, can weep. Beyond weeping we can extend ourselves into the world around us and become the hands, feet, and arms of god, reaching out to, serving, embracing one another. I have to believe that we who believe in love must extend it into the world.

So what does this mean in practical terms? I don’t believe it means going out of your way to do some good–volunteering at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen or hospice or something like that. While those are definitely good things to do, and I highly recommend doing them, extending love and compassion into the world can look a little different for each of us. The work that I do involves interacting with people all day every day. I deal a lot with people who have felt ignored, disenfranchised, and disconnected from other human beings and from our institutions.

Sometimes the simple act of listening has made a difference. People need to know that someone is listening and cares for them, even if they can’t necessarily fix the problem. “Thank you for listening to me. You’re the first person who has really tried to help me since I’ve been here.” I was working with a young person who had a really difficult, almost impossible situation. I had told him early on that I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to help him, but what I could do is listen, make some inquiries to see what I could do. In the end we were able to work out part of a solution that was far from perfect, but to him it had turned out positively simply because someone cared enough to listen and take action to do something that was within my ability to do. What is within your ability to do?

The journey of these 40 days of Lent need not be filled with simply giving things up (see Day One of this blog) but by finding those places where we can work to ease the suffering in and bring joy to the world around us. I know, it sounds kind of corny or idealistic, but I actually believe that it can be just that simple. I have a colleague who has adopted the phrase “love more” as her personal mantra, her approach to her work, and the way she walks through the world. I know there are times when she feels like she doesn’t quite hit the mark, but even the aspiration of approaching each day with the desire and intention to extend love and compassion into the world is a beautiful place to start.

How will you go out into the world in the days ahead? Where are the small acts of kindness you can extend as part of your daily routine? From my perspective, those actions are every bit as spiritual as whatever you’ve chosen to give up for Lent. Over these 40 days I want to be much more intentional in reaching out in love to some of the people around me. I’m not going to plan anything in particular, I’m simply going to pay attention in a different way to the people around me. My hunch is that I’ll see my way in, finding ways to connect with them that if nothing else brings a little light their way. Again, as I write this or talk about it aloud, it sounds a bit corny, but when you do it, wonderful things often happen.

Jesus wept (he sure did), but he also set about doing good for the people around him. That sounds like a pretty good way of being and that’s good enough for me.

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