As he [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like a sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. – Mark 6:34 (NRSV)
- What does compassion mean to you?
- Who has had compassion for you when you needed it?
- For whom have you had compassion?
- Have you ever felt like a sheep without a shepherd?
- What have you been taught in your moments of need?
My wife meets many interesting characters. Recently she met a woman who is 100 years old. Like anyone who is at the century mark or over, this woman was a treasure cove filled with stories of times, places and people that seem almost foreign. They shared a long and wonderful conversation.
After some time, my wife asked the woman, “With all your experiences is there one thing that happened in your life that you consider the most special?”
“Oh there are things that I definitely consider more special than the rest,” she responded. “One of the best things that ever happened to me was being able to take care of my husband when he was dying.” She then proceeded to share the story of her husband’s illness and the ways that love poured from her to ensure his comfort and to allow him to know he was not alone at the end.
Next she shared more stories of being with people during other illnesses, rough times in life, or times of sincere suffering. She spoke about other people asking her to go into places where people were in pain, because I imagine they hoped she would somehow bring a smile, bring at least a portion of joy, and share a bit of the love of Christ.
As this woman recounted the times of her life she considered to be the best times, each was a story of how she was able to be with someone else in their suffering and need, and how she discovered in each of those moments the sacred.
My wife called it one of her favorite conversations of all time!
The word “compassion” comes from the Latin which means “to suffer with.” When Jesus had compassion for anyone that means he wanted and felt the need to suffer with him or her, not necessarily suffering too, but making sure no one was suffering alone.
Each of us has suffered and will suffer, and we have all witnessed suffering. I wonder what the world would be like if when we encountered suffering we were like that 100-year-old woman or we were like Jesus, and went to go be with those who suffer? I bet it would be a better place, and I also imagine we would have incredible stories to share about the best times in our lives, those times we were able to bring others hope, joy, peace and love when there seemed to be none.
Written by Rev. Garrett Andrew, minister of First Presbyterian Church of Albany, Georgia.