VATICAN CITY — During a prayer vigil on Thursday for all those in need of consolation, Pope Francis stressed that though we cry out in moments of difficulty, we are never alone.
His words of reassurance came after hearing various testimonies of suffering at the prayer vigil, which was held as part of the Jubilee of Mercy.
“How many tears are shed every second in our world? Each is different, but together they form, as it were, an ocean of desolation that cries out for mercy, compassion and consolation,” the Pope said May 5.
The bitterest tears, he noted, “are those caused by human evil: the tears of those who have seen a loved one violently torn from them; the tears of grandparents, mothers and fathers, children; eyes that keep staring at the sunset and find it hard to see the dawn of a new day.”
However, Francis stressed, “In our pain, we are not alone. Jesus, too, knows what it means to weep for the loss of a loved one.”
Pointing to the passage in the Gospel of John when Christ weeps for the death of his friend Lazarus, the Pope noted that Christ sees Mary of Bethany weeping and “nor can he hold back tears. He was deeply moved and began to weep.”
“Jesus’ tears have unsettled many theologians over the centuries,” he said, but even more, “they have bathed so many souls and been a balm to so much hurt.”
Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for his evening “Dry the Tears” prayer vigil for all in need of consolation.
The vigil, marking the Ascension of the Lord, began with three testimonies, alternated with biblical readings, in which the families who spoke recounted tragic stories of suffering, including loneliness, suicide and religious persecution.
After each testimony, a candle was lit in front of the reliquary of Our Lady of Tears in Syracuse, which was brought to Rome for the jubilee prayer vigil and exposed for veneration.
In his speech, Pope Francis noted that in moments of sadness, suffering and illness, everyone looks for “a word of consolation” amid the anguish of persecution and grief.
“We sense a powerful need for someone to be close and feel compassion for us. We experience what it means to be disoriented, confused, more heartsick than we ever thought possible. We look around us with uncertainty, trying to see if we can find someone who really understands our pain,” he said.
Questions fill the minds of the suffering, but frequently without answers, he said, explaining that reason alone is not enough to make sense of the profound grief of those who suffer, nor can it provide answers.
At times like this, “more than ever do we need the reasons of the heart, which alone can help us understand the mystery which embraces our loneliness,” Francis observed.
In addition to knowing what it means to cry in moments of grief, Christ also experienced personally not only fear of suffering and death, but “disappointment and discouragement at the betrayal of Judas and Peter.”
“If God could weep, then I, too, can weep, in the knowledge that he understands me,” Pope Francis said, explaining that the tears of Christ “serve as an antidote to my indifference before the suffering of my brothers and sisters.”
“His tears teach me to make my own the pain of others, to share in the discouragement and sufferings of those experiencing painful situations,” he said, adding that Christ's tears “cannot go without a response on the part of those who believe in him. As he consoles, so we, too, are called to console.”
Francis noted how, in moments of fear and dismay, Christ always turned to his Father in prayer, adding that prayer is the “medicine” for our suffering. “In prayer, we, too, can feel God’s presence,” which comforts us and gives us strength and hope.
“We, too, need the certainty that the Father hears us and comes to our aid. The love of God, poured into our hearts, allows us to say that when we love, nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from those we have loved,” the Pope said.
He concluded his meditation by pointing to a passage in the Letter to the Romans, in which St. Paul says, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
The power of love, he said, “turns suffering into the certainty of Christ’s victory, and our own in union with him, and into the hope that one day we will once more be together and will forever contemplate the face of the Blessed Trinity, the eternal wellspring of life and love.”
After Francis finished his address, the vigil continued with the collection of individual prayer intentions from those in attendance, as well as the universal prayer for all situations of physical and spiritual suffering.
Pope Francis concluded the vigil by blessing and giving to certain individuals present an image of the Paschal Lamb as an expression of the mercy of the Father for all faithful who live in situations of profound suffering.