In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.”
Compassion is something that Jesus modeled for his followers again and again. It saddens me when I read about, or witness first hand a lack of compassion. It is especially hypocritical for people who call themselves Christian to behave in ways that are devoid of compassion. When we turn our backs on people in need we are acting in direct opposition to Christ’s teachings.
God of mercy, help us to see your son, Jesus Christ in every refugee, in every person who is fleeing from injustice, war, persecution or famine. Help us to open our hearts and our minds so that we may provide places of haven and rest for all who are in need of our help. Let us welcome each stranger as we would welcome Christ himself so that all may know the love and compassion of your people. Through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen
Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
It’s hard not to take no for an answer, but if we aren’t persistent there will be times that we don’t get what we need. The Gentile woman in this parable had such faith that even after she was insulted by Jesus she persisted in asking for his help. She had enough faith to trust that Jesus could heal her daughter, and after some begging and a very logical retort, Jesus did heal her daughter. We can use this as a model in life and in prayer. There are times when we need to politely and humbly, but persistently push to get what we need.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
We see the lack of mercy everywhere we look, but we can be merciful, and we do hunger and thirst for righteousness. We can work for peace, and yes, there are many people who are pure of heart. When we turn off the news and put down our phones and our iPads and look each other in the eye we see all of these things. We cannot afford to be discouraged by what we read or see on the news. We need to trust in God and in his children and stay engaged in working for justice, peace and equality, hoping that our reward will be great, not just in heaven, but right here as well, in the form of a more merciful and just society.
“It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Most of us can genuinely say that our our intentions are not evil. We try to live our lives in harmony with God and our fellow human beings. There are times however that we may defile ourselves with thoughts had or things said or done in passion. It’s when we refuse to admit that we have offended that we put ourselves in danger of becoming jaded or bitter. If we fail to be contrite and attempt instead to justify our bad behavior, we distance ourselves from God’s great love and mercy.
The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together.
“Let us stand up together.” That sentence is powerful, it speaks to our need for solidarity, not just with God, but also with our fellow man. We need each other. We support and are supported by one another when we stand together. As the chant of many protest movements goes, “The people united will never be defeated.” It is when we are sorted into groups and pitted against one another that we fall. So, ”Let us stand up together.”
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
We live in a society that expects us to be busy all of the time. We are expected to work long hours and take few breaks. Jesus knew that we also need to rest. Without time to ourselves, when can we reflect and think and pray? It’s very difficult to have a rewarding spiritual life if we don’t devote some of our time to not being busy.
Assemble yourselves and come together, draw near, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge—those who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save.
We are witnessing some the most perverse idolatry imaginable. Power and money are the gods that are being worshipped. There seems to be a cruel joy these idolaters take in disenfranchising all who are different or have less. It would seem that they seek the ruin of any safety net that exists to protect the poor, the elderly, the homeless, and anyone else who may need a helping hand. What is to be gained by sacrificing the wellbeing of so many? The answer to that question is of course power and wealth.
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”
Part of what we are called to do, not just as people of faith but as human beings, is to be hospitable. This was the example set by my parents and grandparents. No one who entered our house left hungry. Room could always be made at the table for an unexpected guest. In addition to the sharing of a meal, hospitality is hearing what other people have to say and, not just to hear, but to listen. There are many people with whom we will disagree, but when we fail to listen to each other we lose a part of our humanity. I would hazard to guess that most people have at some point in their lives felt unwelcome or out of place. One of our jobs as humans is to make one another feel welcome and respected.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
We have a moral obligation to seek the truth and to proclaim the truth. When we are told lies we must name them. We must call out the person who told them for what they are. One who lies is a liar. They cannot change the truth to suit their purpose and we must never let them succeed in their deception. Those who would pervert the truth damage society and sow cynicism and doubt. We must not think that this is normal or allow ourselves to become complacent in seeking the truth. As our Savior told us, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32.
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
For some of us who have dreaded the inauguration of our president, whom the majority of voters did not choose, it is with heavy hearts and anxiety that we come before God today. Let us take to heart the words of Paul, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” We will all need encouragement and love and we will need to support one another in the resistance of injustice and the preservation of our constitution. We will need to be vigilante and to actively participate in protests and campaigns to protect the freedoms which until now many of us thought safe. In the past people of all faiths came together to seek justice and to promote freedom and I pray that once again faith communities will unite to protect the hard won freedoms of all Americans.