Horeb photo

The Rock of Horeb

Pope Francis has preached about the gift of tears, a little known gift of the Holy Spirit:

“All of us have felt joy, sadness and sorrow in our lives, [but] have we wept during the darkest moment? Have we had that gift of tears that prepare the eyes to look, to see the Lord? We, too, can ask the Lord for the gift of tears. It is a beautiful grace … to weep praying for everything: for what is good, for our sins, for graces, for joy itself. … [It] prepares us to see Jesus.”

Today’s reading at Morning Prayer is from Exodus:

Therefore the people found fault with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you find fault with me? Why do you put the LORD to the proof?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.


Christina Rossetti in her poem about the gift of tears alludes to this episode at Horeb. She feels her heart a dry stone within her, unable to weep at Calvary, and asks God to smite her heart as Moses smote the rock at Horeb so that life-giving water might flow forth. Her life was filled with affliction, but she asks for the affliction that creates a tender heart.

AM I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved 5
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky, 10
A horror of great darkness at broad noon—
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more 15
And smite a rock.


Francis said if we let ourselves cry, we can then recognize “the cry of the penitent, the cry of the brother and the sister who are looking upon so much human misery.”
But, he assured the congregation, “Mary will make us understand how great and humble this mystery [of the cross] is; how sweet as honey and how bitter as aloe. That she will be the one who accompanies us on this journey, which no one can take if not ourselves. Each one of us must take it. With the mother, weeping and on our knees.”
Mary Weeping
The solution to the refugee crisis in Europe is hard to see, but Francis calls on us to have tender hearts:
“Who has wept for the deaths of these brothers and sisters? Who has wept for the people who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who wanted something to support their families? We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping, of ‘suffering with’; the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep.”
“Who has wept? Who in today’s world has wept?” We must “ask Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves” to weep at the foot of the Cross.
Dead refugee child
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