Compassion and Connection Homily
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. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.
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.
When we accept Jesus’ invitation to participate in his work, then with every act of compassion we offer and every connection we make in His name, we are helping to bring God’s Kingdom ever closer.
At the point in St Mark’s gospel described above, Jesus’ mission is really beginning to take off, and people are seeing that something amazing is unfolding before them.
Things were getting so hectic that Jesus and the disciples needed a bit of rest and something to eat, so they decided to go to a quieter place on the other side of the lake for a while.
But the rest that Jesus was trying to find for them did not happen because as they rowed to the other side the crowds saw where they were heading and dashed around to meet them there.
An ordinary man would probably have been a bit annoyed (to say the least) that he wasn’t getting the rest and food he needed. But we are told that Jesus then took compassion on the crowds and taught them many things.
But what does compassion look like in the world today?
Well, it is not pity which is something we can feel without getting too personally involved.
It is not empathy either because the feelings still belong to the other person when we empathise with someone. They are not our feelings.
To feel compassion means to suffer with the one suffering – to share their burden. Real compassion is something that we feel at the core of our being.
It bubbles up in us when we see someone experiencing a pain we too have lived through, then we feel that same pain because we understand what the other person is going through:
When Jesus looked at the crowds of people desperate to connect with him, he must have felt their confusion and deep desire to know God in a way their scribes and teachers had never shown them.
Today, when Jesus looks at us, he feels compassion for us too. He feels our pain, sorrow, and brokenness. He suffers with us in our deep desire for authentic connections and our deepest primal desire to be made right with God.
But, he doesn’t offer platitudes or cliches and then move on.
He doesn’t put a little plaster on our brokenness and send us on our way.
He doesn’t accommodate our wrong-thinking either and tell us it is OK.
Instead, as Jesus did with the crowds in Mark’s gospel:
He ‘teaches’ us a better way of relating to others.
He ‘teaches’ us about the brokenness of our world and ways to navigate it.
He also ‘teaches’ of the ultimate hope we have of life eternal.
He does all these things today still through modern-day disciples, scripture, and prayer.
When Jesus taught his followers to preach repentance and offer healing and wholeness, he invited them into partnership with him so that his ministry could expand through them.
As Jesus did this, he truly invested himself in them. He developed a deep-seated connection with them – as they did also with one another.
Today, Jesus also invests in us as he invites us to partner with him. We are called to share the good news with people we know and to offer healing and comfort to those whose pain brings about compassion in us.
Jesus also invites us to invest ourselves into the lives of others by inviting them into our own lives, so we can teach them what Jesus has taught through generations of Christian mission and ministry.
When we accept this invitation to offer connection and compassion and to teach others what we have learned, amazing, miraculous things happen – and God’s Kingdom comes a little closer.
Later in Mark 6, after Jesus fed the 5,000 and walked on water, he and his disciples arrived at Gennesaret.
The people there immediately recognised Jesus and brought all their sick along and begged him to let them touch the hem of his cloak; all who did were healed.
Today, our work as Christians can be likened to the fringe of Christ’s cloak – allowing Jesus to work through us, offering his healing and wholeness to others. To do this, we have to allow others to come close to us in their own time. Then, through the holy spirit, we can offer real compassion and connection.
This is what the compassion that Jesus showed looks like.
It isn’t pity that says, “Oh dear, that’s a shame, I wish I could help, but I am rather busy at the moment”.
It isn’t empathy that says, “Here’s a few words of advice that probably won’t solve your problem, but it will help me feel a bit better about myself.”
Compassion and connection mean being in touch with the flow of life happening around us every day. It is about allowing ourselves to be touched by others, and as we do, we can offer real compassion and be Christ’s healing touch in the world.
And, as we accept Jesus’ invitation to participate in his work, then with every act of compassion we offer and with every genuine connection we make, we are helping to bring God’s Kingdom ever closer.
Kristyn Getty brings God’s compassion alive in her and Keith’s Compassion Hymn in the YouTube link below.