Compassion - A Reflection on Mark 6:53-56
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Jesus was a man of extraordinary compassion. When he saw his apostles were tired after an extended time of ministry, he told them to come away with him for some rest. However, people saw them going and followed them, and Jesus, despite his own desire for rest, had compassion for them and began to attend to them. I decided to look up the definition of compassion, and quite honestly, what I found on a couple of sites would serve as an adequate reflection for today.
This is what vocabulary.com has to say about compassion. If someone shows kindness, caring, and a willingness to help others, they're showing compassion. This is a word for a very positive emotion that has to do with being thoughtful and decent. Giving to a charity takes compassion. Volunteering to work with sick people or animals takes compassion. When you have compassion, you're putting yourself in someone else's shoes and really feeling for them.
So, you see, it isn’t just a feeling; it is an emotion that precipitates an action. We often claim to be moved by somebody’s plight, but unless we do something to alleviate the person’s suffering, those are empty words. James puts it very well when he says, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
I hope we can all be compassionate people, but I want to say something else here, something that is rarely spoken about: the willingness to receive compassion. Many of us, especially those in ministry - be it priestly, or lay - like to imagine that we have it all together, that we know all the answers, but that isn’t true and if we are honest about it, we will not put ourselves beyond the reach of love.
This has to be legitimate love, of course, but there are so many ways of receiving it. If we are blessed to belong to a community, then we need to have a mutual give and take of compassion, not the frigid apathy we sometimes see. If we don’t belong to a community, then we can receive from the very sheep that we tend to. And I believe that through this, we will all be healthier, more loving people.
So, give and receive.