The Compassion of Christ
When Christ was on earth, he did things through his natural body; that is, he taught with his lips, healed with his hands, and gave supernatural life with his breath. Now that he has left the earth, He no longer works in his natural body, but in his mystical body, the Church.
This really hit home with me in an experience I had a couple weeks ago. I have some routines that I do almost automatically. One is to take my lunch to work with me in the morning, and another is to participate in daily mass at noon at St. Mary Magdalene in downtown Omaha.
One day, I was almost at work when I noticed that I had forgotten my lunch. Rats, I thought to myself. Oh well, I can just buy lunch somewhere after mass.
Well, as the day went on, I got into meetings which did not end until after mass had already started. So, now two parts of my normal routine had not gone as planned. I still needed lunch so I decided to go to the Manhattan Deli on 19th Street. It has a great sandwich there that I love. It's called the Brooklyn Bridge, with sliced beef, Swiss cheese, peppers, and onions. Man is that a great sandwich!
I better stop thinking of food and get back to my story.
I left the Union Pacific Building between 14th and 15th Streets; heading for the Manhattan Deli on 19th Street. The walk from 16th Street to 19th Street is uphill. About half way up I started passing a woman pushing another woman in a wheel chair.
The woman pushing had stopped and had her head down. It seemed that maybe something was wrong, so I asked if she needed any help. As she looked up I noticed tears in her eyes.
The woman pushing the wheelchair was the daughter of the woman in the wheelchair. The mother, in the wheelchair, said, yes we could use some help. I asked where they were going and they said about another two blocks up the hill. I told them I was going that way and that I could push Mom.
The daughter seemed embarrassed to accept this help. She explained that she has MS and her legs were hurting. She had just about exhausted her strength and was at a loss as to what to do.
So, I pushed Mom up the hill to the car. She and the daughter were very grateful. I felt grateful too. My morning meetings had not gone all that well and helping this daughter and mother made me feel much better about my own day.
I went on to the Deli, and as I was eating lunch I reflected on what had just happened. I reflected on how the events of this day came to be.
Two events that I intended to happen did not happen and caused me to change my plans.
Had I taken my lunch and had the meetings not lasted so long, I would have missed the mother and daughter. Being at that place at that time was certainly not what would have happened under my intended routine. Something, or someone, had changed events such that I was where I was needed that day.
I used to chalk these circumstances off as coincidences. I no longer do that. I see the world a little differently. I see the hand of God working through his mystical body more in my life than I do happenstance or random chance.
Examples such as these bring me back to the reality of the remarkable compassion of Jesus as shown in today's gospel.
Jesus' heart went out to all those people who had beaten him to the other side of the lake. Though Jesus' intent for himself and his apostles was to rest, that is not what happened.
Jesus had compassion for the crowd and he has compassion for us because He knows what we face in life. He knows this because He came to this world and lived among us for a time.
While He was here, He endured more than His share of pain, poverty and suffering. He knows what it is like to do without. He knows what it is like to be rejected. He knows what it is like to be hated. He knows what it is like to suffer pain. He knows what it is like to be hungry, thirsty and alone. He even knows what it is like to die.
Jesus walked through this world and experienced what He did so that He might better help us in our times of need. One result of all his experiences is his great compassion for us.
Jesus not only saw a huge group of people meeting him on the other side of the lake; He also saw the individuals in that crowd. As He looked out at that mass of people, He saw every broken heart, every physical ailment, every emotional need, every spiritual problem. He saw it all! He saw the crippled child. He saw that abused wife. He saw the depressed father. He saw the rebellious teenager. Jesus looked at a crowd, but He saw the individual!
Our God sees everything that happens in this universe, but He still has the ability to focus on the individual. Jesus cares about each of us and the needs in our individual lives. We can come to Him and find the help we need regardless of the problems we face.
Jesus has Compassion for the Scattered Ones.
He has Compassion for the Sinning Ones.
He has Compassion for the Sick Ones.
He has Compassion for the Suffering Ones.
He has Compassion for the Seeking Ones.
Jesus is resurrected and so cannot personally give this compassion to each of us. However, he rose so that he could send Us his Spirit. It is the Spirit that guides and acts in our daily lives. Christ, through the Spirit, uses Us as his hands, his feet, his strength.
Individuals are not treated by God simply as isolated units, each with its own separate relation to him. He treats all as related to him, and; therefore, related to one another. He uses this relationship of each of us to the other as the foundation of his action on any one individual.
The Brotherhood of Man is a reality because of the Fatherhood of God; and God uses this relationship to convey his gifts to those in need.
It was Christ that helped that daughter push her Mom up the hill that day. I was but a visible manifestation of His mystical body, blessed to be his instrument for that purpose. And it is a rather overwhelming realization to come to see yourself as His instrument, working within His plan, to extend His compassion to His people. It is overwhelming, and it is true.