Gospel - Matthew 9: 35 -10:8
Once again, a personal reflection, which I share with you.
In our Gospel this week, we are told that Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Matt 9:36), because the people were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Friday this coming week sees the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with its emphasis on the Divine Compassion.
Actually, the Gospel words ‘had compassion’ don’t quite convey the full message. Closer to a contemporary understanding might be the ugly phrase ‘he was moved with gut wrenching compassion.’ I remember one of my New Testament lecturers telling us that ‘his guts churned over’ was not a bad translation, like that feeling we get inside when we see something truly horrendous.
Like so many priests (and indeed ‘carers’ of every kind) l have known that feeling in the past few weeks. Telling a family that their loved one’s funeral in church had to be cancelled; telling a distraught, tearful mourner that they couldn’t go and sit in church; telling a long time church member with dementia over and over (because she forgets) that I can’t come with Holy Communion; worst of all not being able to go to hospital with an elderly lady with a suspected stroke or comfort her tearful husband.
At a different level I lie awake worrying about the dire financial state of our parish and diocesan finances. There is great worry about even long term survival. All of these are gut wrenching, tear making experiences.
The overwhelming pain at failing as a shepherd, even though it is unavoidable is a common experience, and one that we have all shared at some time in some context. Mary, the mother of Jesus shared that pain as she stood at the foot of the cross. We have all had that pain, we have all worried about lack money or something similar.
Another name for this a Sunday is ‘Divine Compassion Sunday.’ It is deeply moving to realise that Jesus continues to ‘gut wrenchingly’ care for each one of us. Even in the glory of heaven Jesus weeps and prays for us.
Lord Jesus, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult times we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves and all over whom we weep, to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.
Of your charity please pray for the repose of the souls of two faithful former members of St. Stephen’s who have recently died and whose funerals Fr Andrew will take next week;
Lorna Cowan and Joan Baddeley RIP.