There are some things we see most clearly through tears or after we have wept, and often the mercy shown us enables us to recognize what formerly was dim or distant. Mary Magdalene sees the Risen Christ through her tears, hears the word of mercy addressed to her and recognizes Jesus as her Teacher. Today’s Mass readings place us in the same dynamic. Sorrow turns to joy even as all hope appears gone. Isaiah’s vision of the Lord wiping away the tears from every cheek and furnishing his people with a rich banquet (Is 25. 6–10) becomes in the gospel Jesus healing the sick and providing an abundant meal (Matt 15.29–37). In both we see echoes of the Eucharist and of the Heavenly Banquet to come at the end of time. At their core, though, are those two elements: the experience of pain, hopelessness even, and the experience of mercy, of what the Bible calls ‘salvation’.
Advent is a time of joyful preparation, but it still makes demands on us. We see our sin through our tears: which means we see how far we have fallen short of the glory of God. That might make us despair were it not for the way God invites us to something better. He invites us to accept forgiveness and mercy in the person of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We are to become a new creation and walk upright where formerly we were bent over under the weight of our own wrongdoing. In short, we are to be sons in the Son.