Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 27; 147:12-20, Genesis 46:1-7, 28-34, 1 Corinthians 9:1-15, Mark 6:30-46
In what ways are we humans responsible to each other? This question produces heated debates about public policy for everything from healthcare to school lunches to seat belt laws to immigration. While one side cries “nanny state” and the other cries “class warfare” both seem less interested in compassion than in domination. People of faith can not look to secular leaders – even Christian ones – for answers about how to respond to God’s call to compassion. Fortunately, we have Christ as our guide.
When Jesus led his disciples to what he hoped would be a place of rest, and instead found a great crowd already waiting, he didn’t complain or look for a different place. Rather, “he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Compassion drove him even when he sought rest. Does our own compassion take precedence over our immediate fears and desires, or is it a slave to budgets, calendars, and convenience? It is tempting to make excuses when compassion asks for more than we want to give, especially to strangers. Compassion can be inconvenient, and may make demands of us when we are tired, hungry, or poor ourselves.
When the disciples asked Jesus to send that same crowd into town so they could find dinner, his response was: “You give them something to eat.” The disciples’ first reaction was to claim they couldn’t afford food for everyone. How often have we answered the call to compassion with similar excuses? Yet Jesus only asked them to give what was at hand, which turned out to be more than enough. He didn’t ask them to evaluate who was truly deserving, or to run a stewardship campaign to determine what resources were available. He trusted that God would use the gifts of the people to provide what was needed.
We can try to instill fairness, wisdom and compassion into secular society and government, but in the end Jesus is telling each of us: “you feed them” (or clothe them, or heal them, or help them). Will we respond with compassion or an excuse?
Comfort: The gifts you already possess are enough to make an important difference to someone.
Challenge: Of course you can’t be all things to all people at all times, but also try not to let yourself off the hook by dismissing what you have to offer.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the gifts you have entrusted to me. Please bless me with the strength and will to use them in your service. Amen.
Discussion: In what ways are you stingy with your compassion? What excuses do you make for not using your gifts?
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