Jesus comes near and he beholds the city
And looks on us with tears in his eyes,
And wells of mercy, streams of love and pity
Flow from the fountain whence all things arise.
He loved us into life and longs to gather
And meet with his beloved face to face.
How often has he called, a careful mother,
And wept for our refusals of his grace,
Wept for a world that, weary with its weeping,
Benumbed and stumbling, turns the other way;
Fatigued compassion is already sleeping
Whilst her worst nightmares stalk the light of day.
But we might waken yet, and face those fears,
If we could see ourselves through Jesus’ tears.
Hear Malcolm Guite read today’s poem
Every mother knows what it is to weep for her children. Jesus likened Himself to a mother as He wept over Jerusalem. He felt immeasurable compassion yet with it, the sadness of helplessness. How profound to think of God as helpless, but look close because there is power there.
The apostle Matthew quotes Jesus as saying to Jerusalem “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
Compassion compels us to act, but often we cannot. Our ability is limited by both capacity and circumstance and our tears may become those of exhaustion and helplessness. As Malcolm Guite writes in The Word in the Wilderness:
What can we do? Jesus comes close to us, and this is where we particularly need to come close to him, for his compassion, unlike ours is infinite, and ours can be renewed in his, our compassion not just for the world, but for ourselves. We need first to receive and feel his healing compassion for us, compassion for us in our very state of compassion fatigue, and in so doing, the healing springs can rise again and our own capacity for compassion will be renewed.
Have your tears ever driven you to Jesus?
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it
Dig Deeper: Literature & Liturgy
Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings. For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page.
Photo courtesy Lancia E. Smith
For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.
Lent is a time to reorient ourselves, clarify our minds, slow down, recover from distraction and focus on the values of God’s kingdom. Poetry, with its power to awaken the mind, is an ideal companion for such a time. This collection enables us to turn aside from everyday routine and experience moments of transfigured vision as we journey through the desert landscape of Lent and find refreshment along the way.
Following each poem with a helpful prose reflection, Malcolm Guite has selected from classical and contemporary poets, from Dante, John Donne and George Herbert to Seamus Heaney, Rowan Williams and Gillian Clarke, and his own acclaimed poetry.