Christ's Mission of Compassion

by Deacon Lorna Goodison on June 15, 2023

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  In the gospels the sick often approach Jesus, pleading for healing. But there are instances when Jesus takes the initiative and “sees” persons, attracting them to Himself. He “saw” Simon Peter and His brother Andrew and called them to be His disciples. Later, He “saw” Matthew at the tax booth and called him. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus “saw” Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree and invited him down. Jesus’ seeing transcends the physical realm, but pierces deep into our beings, recognizing our need for spiritual and physical healing.

      In Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 9:35-10:8) Jesus was traveling throughout Galilean villages and towns, healing the sick, teaching in the synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom.  Then, looking at the throngs of people seeking His help, He “saw” the larger problem. People were suffering, helplessly in pain, yearning for a deeper, more purposeful life. Lacking good shepherds, and good pastoral leaders, the people could not connect their stories, their pain, to God’s divine Presence and love. They were therefore harassed and without an anchor to take them through life’s storms. The shepherds of Israel had become great scholars of the law while forgetting their shepherding responsibility to model God’s loving care.

    Jesus had compassion for the people for He is the true shepherd that lovingly feels our pain. He saw how some, because of their affliction, were denied the innate equal human dignity of all persons made in God’s image. Compassion for Jesus was more than a feeling, but concrete action, for He came to seek out and save the lost.

      Jesus therefore dispatched His inner circle of twelve disciples, to go out and expand His work of teaching, proclaiming God’s kingdom and healing. They were sent out in the power and authority of Jesus, the Son of God. In this way, the scope of Christ’s compassionate work expanded. In His wisdom, Jesus established physical and spiritual boundaries for the disciples’ mission. They were to go only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus saw it fitting that the New Covenant teaching of God’s kingdom should begin with Israel, just like Yahweh’s movement of salvation history in the Old Testament began with Israel. After His resurrection, Jesus expanded the disciples’ mission to all nations.

     In this season after Pentecost, we are reminded that when we feel harassed and helpless, we are not alone. We are invited into God’s household, God’s kingdom, where all will find eternal peace and joy.  As members of His household, we are sent into the world to “see” the sick, the vulnerable, and those who are suffering, harassed, and helpless. Like Christ, we are called to compassionate action so all may experience the joy of being awakened to the Presence and power of God who always cares.

Tags: love, compassion, joy, peace, shepherd, healing, lost sheep, helpless

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