Matthew 9: 35 - 38

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

When Jesus visited the synagogue in Nazareth he opened up the scroll containing the words of Scripture setting out a manifesto of love, compassion and service.  Jesus was inspired that day in Nazareth by the work of the Spirit of the Lord resting upon him.  In today’s passage we are reminded that, not only was he was inspired by the Spirit, he was also motivated by compassion.  The original meaning of compassion very simply yet powerfully is about suffering with another, allowing another’s suffering to become our very own.  That is what Jesus felt when he looked at those who gathered around him seeking his help.  It was what he brought to life in his teaching, his welcome, his acceptance and his desire to turn people’s  lives around them that they might be rich with the things of God.

Compassion is so much more than kind words spoken from a safe distance.  It is much more than a feeling of sympathy when we consider another person’s situation.  The kind of compassion that Jesus demonstrated was a compassion that changed the lives of those he came into contact with.  It is a compassion that should change the way in which we live ie. what we say and how we say it, what we do and how we do it.  This compassion should not be patronising in any shape or form or cause us to look down at others.  It should encourage us to look directly at others and seek ways of helping them face up to whatever is promoting and maintaining poverty in their lives.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote that “we must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer”.  Jesus saw people who were struggling big time in life.  He saw people who were “harassed and helpless”  and we have seen the same and have experienced the same.  It moved him tremendously and moved him into action.  Some translations of this verse speak of Jesus being “moved with compassion” and this does give a sense of being affected by what he saw and experienced:  moved with compassion and moved into action.

Lent is a time to give up all that adversely affects our relationship with God and stunts our spiritual growth as christians.  It is also a time to take on new habits that help deepen that relationship and surely that includes showing more and more something of the compassion of Christ in our lives and in the life of this world?

  • How do we view others especially those we deem “harassed and helpless?  Are we tempted to judge them or are we inspired to seek ways of helping and supporting?

Lord, you area compassionate and gracious God,

you abound in love and faithfulness.

May we never take any of this for granted but live lives that

show our appreciation in our living and our giving.