Some humans tear up when they laugh, especially if their chuckle is loud and long. Listening to a gifted comedian or watching a sidesplitting routine can often have us reaching for a hankie to dry those excess tears. Laughter through tears can be quite healthy as a counterbalance to stress. Hence the expression, “laughter is the best medicine.” However, Lent, which includes the passion and crucifixion of Our Lord, is no laughing matter. The season is a sobering opportunity for repentance and change. Lent is not an appropriate time for laughing tears.
There are many reasons why humans breathe in extra gulps of oxygen, which is essentially what yawning is designed to do. We yawn when we’re tired, when we see someone else yawn or even when we think about yawning. Our eyes might also tear up when we yawn. This is not unusual since stretching our facial muscles can put pressure on our tear glands. Yawning can also occur when we feel bored. If we seriously regret the sins we’ve committed, then 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving will be anything but boring. Lent is not an appropriate time for boredom tears.
Do crocodiles shed tears? Yes, they do whenever they attack, slaughter and devour their prey. They cry when they eat, not because they feel sorry for their quarry but as a result of the hissing and sheer bite force that triggers their tear glands when their jaws clench into their game. The belief that this reptile shed tears of sympathy for its kill was a human misjudgment. Observers finally decided that the tears were fake and crocodiles were only pretending to feel remorse while eating their victims alive. To this day, when some parents sense that a child is whining just to gain attention, they may be quick to say, “Stop with the crocodile tears.” In other words, the folks realize that the child’s sobs stem from acting rather than sincere sadness. Lent is not an appropriate time for crocodile tears.
Authentic tears shed from forthright contrition are appropriate for the penitential season that begins this month. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving can help us reverse the thoughts, words and deeds we have done which were antisocial, anti-Christian and anti-observant of God’s laws. Lent is an appropriate time for genuine tears, whether expressed or heartfelt, which return us to following Jesus as the Way and the Truth and the Life.
Let’s first write the words “Yawn for Christ” on a Post-It note. Then let’s draw a line through the word “Yawn” and print the word “Yearn” above it. For the duration of Lent, let’s attach this note to the bathroom mirror. Each morning let’s inhale and exhale a deep “yearning” breath that promises Our Heavenly Father we will try to convert our sinful ways into behaviors that lead us closer to His Son’s resurrection and tears of joy on Easter Sunday.
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