Jesus wept. I knew an elderly lady that would proclaim this whenever she was surprised in a disgusted or saddened manner. Like when a murder is reported on the TV news or when she heard of a death in our parish, she’d exclaim “Jesus wept.”
“Jesus wept” maybe the shortest verse in the Bible (John 11:35), but it comforts me a great deal. I think about how Christ might have felt. You go about your day, and, if you’re fortunate like the Son of God, you’re doing something you love, and then a death occurs, a tragedy. Jesus wept.
The parish life is exceedingly busy. Take for instance a typical Saturday at St. John Vianney. You get up about 7 a.m. to shower, change, and pray. You then go off to the parish campus to unlock whatever rooms need to be unlocked for prayer groups, support groups, or religious education, and then you quiet yourself in order to celebrate the 8 a.m. Mass. After celebrating the summit of our faith, you say your goodbyes and blessings to the Mass attendees and then hurry off to the confessional for 2-3 hours of Confessions. Then you eat breakfast.
On the way back to the office, you run around the parish campus saying “Hi” and “God bless” to all the religious education students and parents. You may even teach a class that day. And when you finally get to the parish office, you have just enough time to check some phone messages, print out some homilies, and then you’re off again to either bless some homes or celebrate a wedding. You may spend a few moments at the wedding reception or eat a meal with the family whose house your blessing. This is your lunch.
You then hurry back to the parish to pray and prepare yourself for the Lord’s Supper, the Saturday Vigil Mass. You celebrate. You then say your goodbyes and blessings to the Mass attendees, and then you’re off to either some parish fundraiser or you’re eating dinner with your fellow Holy Cross religious. You say your prayers and go to bed early; hopefully you’re wound down enough to get the rest you need for the busy Sunday Masses to come.
An emergency, in the midst of a typical Saturday, I had an emergency. After a wedding, I had time to check my voice mail at the office and found it filled with messages from a nurse at a nearby hospital. A mother was giving birth to a baby who was expected to die, and she wanted a priest to come and baptize her baby.
I rushed off to the hospital. I did not hesitate. Fr. Eric was covering the Vigil Mass, and I was the only priest available since Fr. Tom and Fr. Drew were in downtown Phoenix organizing a parish school fundraiser, an event I was off to before checking my messages. I got to the hospital and anointed the mother. She was without family. Her parents were on the way; her husband couldn’t be there. I held her hand and was there at the delivery of the baby in the operating room amongst the doctors and nurses.
I immediately baptized Karen and held her. Karen’s mother was hemorrhaging, so one of the nurses asked if I could take the dying child out of the operating room to a patient room in the delivery ward. They needed to save the mother; she would live. I moved to the open patient room and paced within, holding the barely breathing Karen, who was destined to die. She was just two handfuls. I prayed. Twenty minutes passed when her grandparents arrived. They held Karen for a few minutes, and then she died. Jesus wept.
You go about your day, and if you’re fortunate like the Son of God, you’re doing something you love, and then a death may occur, a tragedy. I hope you can go on, even in grief, knowing that Jesus wept.
Fr. Paul Ybarra, C.S.C., is the Parochial Vicar at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, Ariz. Fr. Ybarra professed Final Vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross on August 28, 2010 and was ordained April 30, 2011! He joins the Spes Unica Blog this year as a regular contributor, sharing with us a slice of parish ministry in the Holy Cross. Learn more about the work of Holy Cross in parochial ministry, including a video highlighting the 13 parishes Holy Cross officially sponsors in the United States.