Our Scripture readings for today speak to us about the implications of having a relationship with Jesus. In our Gospel reading, when the Twelve come back from being sent, Jesus invites them to come away “to a deserted place,” and pray with Him. But when the people see that they are leaving, they follow them, and then Mark tells us something about the compassion of Jesus: “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”
Do we see Jesus caring for us as He did the crowds that were so desperate to see Him? Can we believe His heart is moved with compassion for us? Believe it! And if doubt enters your mind and heart, look at the Cross! Look at your own experience! Look at your loved ones who care for you! And know how much God loves you!
If we can believe in the compassionate gaze of Jesus, it calls us to reflect on how we see each other, and on what is important to us. In our first reading from Jeremiah, God speaks to the leaders, denouncing those who have misled the people: “You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.” And then God promises that He Himself will gather those who have been scattered. God promises that there will rise a “righteous shoot to David,” who “shall do what is just and right in the land.” We Christians see Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy. And the name given to this ruler in the prophecy is “The Lord our justice.” We respond to the compassion of Jesus for us in showing our compassion for others in our work for justice.
Another aspect of responding to Jesus’ love and compassion is found in our second reading from Ephesians. In our reading, St. Paul proclaims that the divisions between Jews and Gentiles are healed in Christ: “For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity through his flesh, … that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it.” We respond to Jesus’ compassion by being ministers of reconciliation.
Sometimes justice and reconciliation seem to be opposed to each other. But they’re not. The most lasting efforts of reconciliation in our world were accompanied by acknowledging the truth and serving justice, allowing real forgiveness and reconciliation to happen.
These responses to Jesus’ love and compassion are not always easy. Mark tells us that Jesus taught the crowds many things. Jesus has taught us many things, about loving beyond what we think is humanly possible, about forgiveness, about caring for those left by the wayside, about so many things. But are we willing to learn? If we are, then why do we seem to hold on for dear life to the “enmity” that exists between so many of us? Do we really have to relate to others primarily as adversaries? Who decided that the best way to communicate was condemnation? Who decided that the most truthful way to refer to others was as part of some “invasion?” Was it Jesus? I can’t see how the one who was “moved with pity for the crowds,” and showed compassion for the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurion and the synagogue official would lead us that way.
May we learn from Jesus’ love for us. May we learn from the Cross, and show compassion for the world God loves.
Fr. Phil, CP