I reminisce back to 2015 when I was attending my first pilgrimage in Taizé, France. I had just finished my first year at university and was questioning my career choice, different paths in life and what lay ahead. I jumped at the opportunity to travel to France thinking it would be a relaxing, luxurious holiday. Little did I know it would be a challenging, character-building experience and reveal a deeper layer of faith that I had not discovered before. I attended a powerful confession with a Catholic priest and as tears flowed from me while I spoke, he stated these words:
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8
I am a crier; whether it is over a lost USB pen, an emotional episode of 60-minute makeover or a sentimental birthday card. I am a sensitive soul and cannot help but cry at times of joy and sadness. This Psalm from God have provided me great strength in my life. During the trivial and serious moments, God affirms he is deeply concerned with every facet of our lives. God doesn’t assess whether the tears are valid or not. Because of his benevolent, compassionate self, he catches every tear that is shed, he collects them and they are precious to him. In this Psalm, David is fearful over his life; many of us are fearful of our lives too. Fearful of change, fearful of remaining the same and fearful of the unknown.
Life is challenging. Sadness and joy ebb and flow; there can be a slow crawl to the top and a fast descent as you swing to the bottom again. Working with young people, I can see the trials and tribulations that they face and continue to. While the improvements in technology have made it easier to connect with others; it has paradoxically created a truly impersonal world where young people can feel empty, forgotten and can lack purpose. I want them to know their tears, fears and sense of being overwhelmed are real and valid; I was there too.
Tears can spring and our efforts to hide or prevent them can fall short. Particularly during Confession, I find tears are the product of cleansing and washing away of our sins, shame and sorrows. No matter what sorrow, heartbreak or grief we will feel, we can take comfort that God cares. In Revelations, God offers a promising eschatological hope: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; death will be no more, nor will there be sorrow or crying in pain.” (Rev 21:4). For every hardship, heartbreak and sorrow, I take great comfort that God is always beside me, he is holding my hand and wiping away my tears. He lives in those who send flowers, give endless hugs, love you unconditionally or buy you your favourite chocolate when the world just seems too heavy!
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in thee.
Deirdre McElholm has been teaching for four years and is the Acting Head of Religion at Saint Mary’s College, Derry.
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