by Father Frank Mann
News agencies throughout the world recently captured Manila’s newly elevated Cardinal Luis Tagle crying soon after he was installed. Equally moving was the Holy Father offering a loving and supportive “touch” to Cardinal Tagle when he cradled his face with his hand.
Asked why he became emotional after receiving his ring and red biretta from Pope Benedict, Cardinal Tagle told the news agencies, “I cry easily.”
The cardinal said, “I guess when you’re before a great mystery that you know is beyond you – a calling, a grace, a mission – then you tremble and at the same time you’re happy.”
The Lord was likewise troubled by the approach of His own death: “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death.”
We find in the Scriptures, “And being in agony, he was praying fervently; and his sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.”
Jesus says, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me.” He cried for God to remove the cup of suffering. Three times Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
The Gospels record on numerous occasions that our Blessed Lord was distressed, deeply grieved, terribly frightened and in great agony. It is unquestionable that He fully embraced our sorrows and fears. In Hebrews, we find, “In the days of his flesh, he offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his piety.”
Jesus was, as recorded, a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”
There are occasions when Jesus describes Himself as joyful as well. He states, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
The Lord also expressed frustration and anger on many occasions.
When He expelled the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem at the Passover, the Gospel of John records: “He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves, He said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’”
We are likewise reminded of Jesus’ interactions with the religious leaders of His day. He was intensely angered by the callous legalism of the Pharisees. These religious leaders were more committed to fulfilling the letter of the law than to making a difference in the lives of others.
The emotion that is most ascribed to Jesus is that of compassion. We find in the Scriptures a plethora of such references:
“Being moved with compassion (for a leper), Jesus stretched out His hand, and touched him, and said to him – ‘Be cleansed.’”
Moved with compassion, Jesus touched the eyes of the two blind men.
When the Lord saw a bereaved widow wailing for her dead son, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”
Beholding the multitudes of people, the Scriptures explain that our Blessed Savior felt compassion for them, because “…they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.”
The powerful message of this blessed season of Advent is that our God has fully immersed Himself in the human condition by becoming one of us. The Almighty did not shield himself from fear, grief, suffering, tears, joy or compassion. Instead, the mystery of “the Word made flesh” is that the Creator and Lord of All comes to us in the person of Jesus and fully embraces a kaleidoscope of human emotions.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the definitive model of perfect spirituality and emotional maturity. We likewise enter into the mystery of His divine life when we try to live authentic and unpretentious lives – when we cease “playing” God and are emboldened in being genuinely true to ourselves.
Father Mann is assigned to the staff of the DeSales Media Group. He resides in St. Sebastian’s rectory, Woodside.