How can I help you (in spite of my pain and suffering)?
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold,service was joy.” - Rabindranath Tagore
Two weeks ago, I was in a church for the Sunday liturgy and the gospel was on Jesus feeding the five thousand men (besides women and children) with five loaves and two fish. In spite of my sincere desire to follow the homily my mind began to think about the context of this gospel passage from Matthew 14: 13-21. It is very important to situate this particular gospel with the preceding verses that narrate the beheading of John the Baptist.
John was the cousin of Jesus and Jesus had tremendous admiration for John as a person and as a fearless Prophet (Mt 11:11). Verse 12 of chapter 13 says “And his disciples came and took the body and buried it; and they went and told Jesus.” In the following verse we read, “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart.” At the death of John the Baptist, Jesus is filled with sadness and sorrow and rightly seeks solitude to grieve and to pray. But when he sees people following him, his heart is filled with compassion and for a while he turns away from his own pain and sorrow and reaches out to alleviate their pain (physical hunger); they have been following him for days without food. Here we encounter a Jesus who brings out one of the most beautiful features of holiness.
In his own person he is experiencing tremendous pain (we know what the death of a beloved can do to us) but still he is reaching out to others. He stops looking at his pain (without denying it) and looks at the pain of others. He cannot remain indifferent or just walk away from their pain. The act of Jesus was a compassionate response drawing from a deep spiritual resource within him. This was Jesus both in his person and in his acts and this comes out very clearly and strongly even as he goes through his passion and death.
During the Last Supper in the Upper Room, knowing that soon Judas will be betraying him, Jesus still washes the feet of Judas and shares bread with him (Jn 13:1-17).
When Peter cuts off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, Jesus rebukes Peter and heals the servant (Jn 18:10).
As Jesus is being led away he looks with compassion at Peter which brings about the conversion in Peter (Lk 22:62).
The last seven words Jesus spoke from the cross, the first four were on behalf of others: “Father forgive them…,” “Today you will be with me in paradise,” “Mother, behold your son,” “Son, behold your mother,” And only after seeing to the needs of others does he think of himself: “I thirst,” “My God, my God why did you abandon me?” and “It is finished.”
The words and the acts of Jesus during his passion clearly indicate the person that he was: in the midst of his suffering, pain, and death he was concerned for the well-being and the needs of others. Isn’t this the mark of holiness? This is call to discipleship. In spite of our own emotional, physical, financial, mental, spiritual pain, suffering, and sorrow we are called to touch the wounds of others. Parents, in spite of their pain and difficulties, would want to alleviate the pain and suffering in the lives of their children (at times at the cost of their life). While this is natural, Jesus’ holiness is a universal call to reach out to anyone in need and in pain (The Good Samaritan Parable. Lk 10:25-37).
Following Jesus, even in the midst of our pain and suffering, can we put the needs of others before our own?
In spite of the hurt, do we have the courage to reach out and bring healing in the other?
As we go about our daily lives and demanding family responsibilities, do we have the willingness to lend a helping hand and to share our time and resources with those in need?
Even in the face of financial strain and other emotional issues that are draining us, can we still reach out to those who cry for help?
Besides expressing our sincere condolences and offering our prayers can we do something more for bereaved families?
Even in the midst of tough times plaguing us can we be more compassionate that results in acts?
Can we make a difference not just in the lives of our children or people known to us but even strangers, especially the poor and the orphaned?
Do we belong to the group that lives by the axiom, “What can you give me?” or part of the group that lives by the mantra, “How can I help you?”
Recall the words of Mother Theresa: “Give until it hurts to give.”
Let us choose to be involved and not remain indifferent. Our acts may be foolish in the eyes of others but we indeed become witnesses of God’s presence and love for others. Rather than just talking about Jesus let us be like Jesus. Love shares