When a mother loses a child, reach out with tears, not words, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the depths of despair, when no
words or gestures will help, then cry with those who suffer, because tears are the
seeds of hope, Pope Francis said.

When people are hurting, “it is necessary to share in
their desperation. In order to dry the tears from the face of those who suffer,
we must join our weeping with theirs. This is the only way our words may truly
be able to offer a bit of hope,” he said Jan. 4 during his weekly general

“And if I can’t offer words like this, with tears,
with sorrow, then silence is better, a caress, a gesture and no words,” he

In his first general audience of the new year, the pope
continued his series of talks on Christian hope by reflecting on Rachel’s
inconsolable sorrow and mourning for her children who “are no more,” as
written by the prophet Jeremiah.

Rachel’s refusal to be consoled “expresses the depth of
her pain and the bitterness of her weeping,” the pope told those gathered
in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall.

“Facing the tragedy of the loss of her children, a
mother cannot bear words or gestures of consolation, which are always
inadequate, always unable to alleviate the pain of a wound that cannot and
doesn’t want to heal,” he said. The amount of pain, he said, is
proportional to the amount of love in her heart.

Rachel and her weeping, he said, represent every mother
and every person throughout history who cry over an “irreparable

Rachel’s refusal to be consoled also “teaches us how
much sensitivity is asked of us” and how delicately one must approach a
person in pain, the pope said.

Jeremiah shows how God responded to Rachel in a loving
and gentle way, with words that are “genuine, not fake.”

The pope said God answers with a promise that her tears are
not in vain and her children shall return from exile and there will be new life
and hope.

“Tears generated hope. This isn’t easy to understand,
but it is true,” he said.

“So often in our life, tears sow hope, they are
seeds of hope,” he said, emphasizing how Mary’s tears at the foot of the
cross generated new life and hope for those who, through their faith, became
her children in the body of Christ, the church.

This innocent “lamb of God” died for all of
humanity, which is always important to remember, especially when struggling
with the question of why children are allowed to suffer in this world, he said.

The pope said when people ask him why such suffering
happens, he said he has no answer. “I just say, ‘Look at the crucifix. God
gave us his son, he suffered, and perhaps there you will find an answer.'”

No appropriate words or replies will ever come from the
head, he said, one can only look at the love God showed by offering his son,
who offered his life — this may point the way to some consolation.

God’s word is the definitive word of consolation
“because it is born of weeping.”

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