“Purity of Compassion”
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 22, 2018
Jeremiah 23: 1-6
Ephesians 2: 13-22
Mark 6: 30-34
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
I will confess that the message of the gospel today is first and foremost for me. I need to hear this as much maybe more than you do. In God’s word to Jeremiah, He showed His heart for His sheep. He is the Good Shepherd and He lays down His life for His sheep. Before Jesus ascended, He told Peter three times, “If you love Me, tend My sheep, feed My lamb, shepherd My flock.” Jesus was patient with His disciples to tell them, “How long will I be with you?” He wasn’t thinking of going to back to the glory of His Father, but thinking of His flock. He was thinking whether they would be taken care of. His heart was for them. Jesus was not thinking of sitting at the right hand of His Father. He was not thinking of Himself, His needs, His privileges, His rights, and this is Jesus. He always put the needs of others first before Himself.
Jesus was hanging on the cross, and if one is in such a situation, the pain would make him think of the pain. Jesus wasn’t thinking of this, but the words, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” This is the heart of our God – always after our needs.
Psalm 23 gives us a realization of our Lord being our Shepherd who brings us such security that is beyond understanding. Losing sight of God being our Shepherd makes us vulnerable to anxiety. The worries of world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things that choke us will make us forget that the Lord is our Shepherd. Psalm 23 says, “If the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Another translation says, “I do not want.” We forget that the Lord is our Shepherd because we are overtaken by the spirit of heaviness. Everything will be all right. Even if we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil. This security makes us able to not see our own needs but put the needs of others above them. When we are secure in the Lord, we will feel taken care of, loved, protected, and blessed to be a blessing. Now, it puts us in a position, not just of security, but of sensitivity to see the needs of others.
Jesus was so sensitive because He was secure in His Father's love. It makes us realize that we are blessed to be a blessing and when we become a blessing to others, then, we are amazed with how much ability we actually. Life will not be added unto us if we worry. Realize that the Lord is our Shepherd, and if we seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added unto us. It opens our hearts and our arms wide to receive what God wants us to have the most, that is, His joy in us, and this is what matters most.
In the gospel, the disciples were sent to a mission by Jesus, and upon their return, they reported to Jesus the ministry that they did. They were tired and exhausted and because they were human, they needed rest. Jesus realized this and so He told them to look for a secluded and lonely place where they can rest. However, the people followed them, a multitude – five thousand people – and Jesus saw them. In His tiredness, He felt compassion on the people. They looked like sheep without a shepherd. The word “compassion” in Greek is a deep feeling that a person feels. Jesus, instead of prioritizing His rest and His time alone with His disciples, addressed the needs of the multitude. He taught them; He healed them; and He and His disciples ended up feeding them.
If we were the disciples, we would justify our tiredness – coming from a ministry following the commands of Jesus so rest is just but needed. We can always justify our own needs above those of others, but kenosis tells us to set aside what rightfully belongs to us but voluntarily we give it up even for the sake of those who are unworthy to receive it. This is mercy – something that is given to somebody who doesn’t deserve it. This is the heart of our God and this is what He challenges us to do. This is what He showed His disciples. God’s heart enables us to meet the need if our hearts are right.
Philippians 2:4 says, “Let us put the interest of others above those of our own.” We are likened to sheep. Trying not to be offensive, sheep (including myself) are dumb and they do not know what they are doing, which is us spiritually. Sheep do not know where they are going, and this is why they need a shepherd. We can say that we went astray because of our own fault so we suffer the consequences and we justify not our helping; but this is not God. The heart of God is always giving and meeting the needs of people.
There was a story of two men shipwrecked and stranded on a lonely island. To quote:
“A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island. The two survivors who have been good friends, not knowing what else to do, agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God. However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.
The first thing they prayed for was food. The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other man’s parcel of land remained barren. After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, there was nothing.
Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However, the second man still had nothing. Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island.
He considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings since none of his prayers had been answered.
As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”
“My blessings are mine alone since I was the one who prayed for them,” the first man answered. “His prayers were all unanswered and so he does not deserve anything.”
“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings.”
“Tell me,” the first man asked the voice, “What did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”
“He prayed that all your prayers be answered.”
This story says that for all we know, our blessings our not the fruits of our prayers, but those of another praying for us.”
The moral of this story is to put the interest of others above those of ourselves because this is the heart of God, and this is just the way it is in the kingdom of our God.