Learn How to Weep: The Contemporary Challenge of Lament in Today's World

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In his encounter with the youth during his January 18, 2015 visit in the Philippines, Pope Francis was reduced to silence when Glyzelle Palomar, a street child, tearfully asked him: “Why do children suffer so much even if it is through no fault of their own?” The Pope digressed from his prepared speech and instead spontaneously responded that “the heart of your question has no reply. Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question. Why do children suffer so much? Why do children suffer? When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something.” This papal challenge on the ability or maybe the need to cry echoes what Walter Brueggemann calls as “the costly loss of lament”. When taken seriously, the challenges that lament poses on biblical interpretation and application confront the "selectiveness" that has characterized the praying of the psalms. Paul VI, for example, noted in the fourth principle of the Liturgy of the Hours in the Apostolic Constitution Promulgation that “[I]n this new arrangement of the psalms some few of the psalms or verses which are somewhat harsh in tone have been omitted, especially because of the difficulties that were foreseen from their use in vernacular celebration.” (1976 edition; p. 15) Walter Brueggemann critiques this tendency and scrutinizes the importance of verbalizing the raw feelings expressed in these psalms and compared it with what he calls as “seasons of life”: orientation, disorientation, and new orientation. This short presentation will first expound on these categories of Brueggemann and focus on two of the most disturbing laments in the psalms (88 and 109). It will also enumerate the “costs” of not being able to authentically and honestly lament. Finally, it will offer an alternative image of God in the Psalms with the hope of helping believers articulate their struggles, affirm their strength, and be agents of change as they face the world through what Pope Francis calls “eyes cleansed by tears”.