Wednesday, May 4, 2011

St Monica, Widow

1 Timothy 5:3-10 / Luke 7:11-16

What has crying to do with the joy of Easter? Why speak this day of devoted tears? Why would we pray to God, as we bask in the light of the Resurrection, that we want to bewail our sins? After all, Lent is over and done, and the pains, sorrows, and pleading, so intense in Holy Week, have yielded to the bright joy of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.

Even so, today the Church places before us Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine. Monica was, of course, a holy and pious woman. Not without faults, to be sure. She showed a certain lack of prudence when delaying the young Augustine's baptism, for example, even if such was part of God's Providence, and in her latter years showed more than due interest in drink. All the same, she was a holy woman.

Yet, what we recall of this holy woman most of all was her life of tears, that ceaseless flow of sorrow and supplication which came from the depths of her soul as she watched her son as a youth, then as a man, depart from her Catholic faith and descend into the life of the flesh and foolish philosophies. Alone, deprived of her husband, this holy widow was the very image prescribed by Paul to Timothy, a widow indeed, and desolate, who placed her trust in God and continued in supplications night and day. She was the wife of one husband, having testimony for her good works, had brought up children, and washed if not the feet of the saints, then at least her own face with weeping for her son's conversion.

If we sometimes make the mistake in Lent of thinking that the life of penance and fasting excludes joy, we are perhaps just as mistaken when we imagine that, at least in this world, the life of Easter joy and Alleluias forbids weeping and mourning. In our Gospel, the raising of the young man to life, he share in an earthly way of the Resurrection and the Life who is the Word made flesh, is prompted not by shouts of joy, but by a mother's tears: Whom when the Lord had seen, being moved with mercy towards her, He said to her: Weep not. We find, then, the paradox of Easter joy. It is true that Jesus, risen from the dead to life eternal, counsels us not to weep, dries our tears as he dried those of the woman in Naim and of the sorrowing Magdalene. Still, it was precisely those tears, that weeping, that supplication for mercy which both moved the Lord's mercy and opened their hearts to receive the Good News of the Resurrection. Said differently, the grace of Easter ought to prompt those very tears it will then dry, ought to move us to weep so as to fill the emptiness which follows with unalloyed joy.

This, then, is why we celebrate Monica and her tears in the time of Easter rejoicing. It is so that when we have been moved by her intercession, and the power of Christ risen from the dead, to bewail our sins, we will find in our hearts thus washed and cleansed nothing by the merciful grace of the Savior.

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