Gospel Reading for the 1st Sunday after Trinity an

Matthew 9:35-10:8

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

 

Reflection

Norman Johnson, Benefice Reader

 

“When he saw the crowds, he was moved with compassion to the depths of his being, for they were bewildered and dejected, like sheep who have no shepherd.”

It is very apposite that when translating from the Greek, the translators have used the phrase “moved with compassion”. The original Greek word when literally translated would be the word “pity” in English, but it would be the type of pity that reaches down into the very core of our souls. However, pity to me is a word that can be misconstrued in how we use it, for example the phrase “I pity their situation”. I’m not sure if that expresses any real concern. However, “compassion” is a much stronger word that has an active expression of love and concern.

In the New Testament, apart from its use in parables told by Jesus, compassion is used only for Jesus and even then very sparingly, which makes its use even stronger. An example is found in Matthew 14 verse 14 where he  was moved with compassion for the sick, in Matthew 20:34 for the blind and for those being possessed by demons in Mark 9:22. These make it clear how much he was concerned about the world’s pain. As William Barclay puts it “He could not bear to see a sufferer without longing to ease their pain”

There have been many examples over the last 50 years of others who have been so moved with compassion for the suffering that they have felt compelled to do something. Bob Geldof with LIveAid in 1984, Mother Teresa in Calcutta and others such as Comic and Sports Relief.

Other examples in the New Testament show Jesus being moved with compassion for the world’s sorrow, hunger and loneliness and as shown in this example the bewilderment and dejection evoking the shepherd image that we associate so much with Him.

What he saw was the common people looking for God, but the religious leaders of the day - the supposed pillars of orthodox worship - were unable to offer anything to them. There was no comfort, no guidance or strength from them. Those leaders who should have been giving their people the strength to live, were too taken up with the subtleties of the law which gave the people no comfort. Is it possible that we today can be accused of the same thing?

I am currently reading a book by Jonathan Herbert an Anglican Priest who lives in the Hilfield Community of The Society of Saint Francis. He contends that accompaniment is a compassionate way of dealing with people. It involves being beside people in need in a non-judgemental way, to listening without asking and not jumping in with suggestions of how it can be sorted out. How many of us could do that?

I would like to leave you with this thought. We as Christians should remember that our faith requires us to be supportive and not dismissive of others. We should encourage them. Not lay them with burdens and with the help of the Holy Spirit become the “Wind beneath their wings”


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