Saturday of the second week of Advent

Posté par diaconos le 5 décembre 2020

When he saw the crowd, Jesus was seized by pity


# Compassion in Christianity, evokes a sense of human brotherhood, which leads us to perform acts of charity to help our neighbour ; Jesus is often described in the Gospels as compassionate, and to encourage his disciples to be compassionate. We act out of compassion and perform every act of sharing. Conscientious examinations and spiritual exercises discourage hatred, without which it would be impossible to feel compassion for the person ; when the need arises, all necessary means will be used to help or liberate the person, even if he or she is not from the clan (parable of the Good Samaritan), simply because of his or her closeness. The Gospel insists on this notion of closeness (where the word ‘neighbour’ comes from), which enables us to see whether or not we are acting effectively. The choice of a Samaritan shows that it is indeed the proximity of the moment and not the most common cultural proximity, where compassion is more easily expressed. Bernard van Clairvaux repeatedly warned against the temptation to withdraw into oneself in order not to meet one’s neighbour, and insisted on the seriousness of this mistake.

From the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew

At that time Jesus went around all the towns and villages, taught in their synagogues, proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom and healed every disease and every infirmity. Seeing the crowd, Jesus was seized by pity for being helpless and slaughtered like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples : « The harvest is abundant, but there are few workers. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers for his harvest. »

Then Jesus called his twelve disciples and gave them the power to cast out unclean spirits and heal every disease and disability. Jesus sent these twelve on a mission with the following instructions: « Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Proclaim along the way that the kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You have received freely: give freely. « (Mt. 9, 35-10, 1.5a.6-8).

# Matthew introduces the group of twelve later in his narrative than the other gospel writers. He had earlier mentioned the collection of disciples at a number of points earlier, but had left their number undefined. Other parts of the New Testament, such as Mark 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:5 make clear that Jesus had more than only twelve followers, and that this group of twelve are the leaders of the organization. The number twelve had deep social and religious significance. The number creates a metaphorical link to the Twelve Tribes of Israel. At the time most Jewish leaders believed that the messiah would bring about an eschatological restoration of the tribes. This link is made explicit at Matthew 19:28. The Qumran community, which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, also had a group of twelve leaders, perhaps for similar reasons. In the culture of the time a group of twelve indicated a complete set, and readers would thus consider a number slightly below or above twelve to be odd. Jesus gives the disciples powers to heal. The ability of one miracle worker to train others is found in the Old Testament as well, such as the education of the Elisha by Elijah.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand

Jesus travelled like a true missionary through the different places of the country; he did not wait for the men to come to him, but went to them. To teach, to proclaim the good news of the kingdom and to heal body and soul, that was his work as Saviour: « Be converted, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. « With this summary of Jesus’ activity Matthew completed the general picture of Jesus’ ministry.

« Being moved with compassion » is often found in the Gospels applied to Jesus, which means that he is moved in his womb, expressing that painful sympathy with which he shared the evil and suffering of our humanity. This feeling of tender charity was awakened by the sight of those crowds, like sheep without a shepherd, tired and thrown away.

This state of exhaustion and suffering was necessarily that of sheep who had no direction, protection or food because they had no shepherd. A true and striking picture of the state of souls without light, without peace, without God. It was in the unfortunate moral state of the people of his time that Jesus saw the signs of a great harvest of souls ready to be gathered into the kingdom of God.

He said to them: « The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few in number ». Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers for his harvest ». (Lk 10:2).

The more man feels and suffers his misery, the more his deepest needs throw him into Jesus’ arms. But for the harvest we need workers to lead souls to the source of life, we need servants of God who show that to them with love; and then there were so few of them that Jesus asked his disciples to pray for more of them.

Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest, that he will send labourers to his harvest. Energetic expression dictated by an urgent need. It is God who only shapes, sends good workers to his kingdom, but the praying Church must ask him for them. It was through this mention of the deep misery of the people and the ardent desire of Jesus that help was quickly sent to him.

Because Jesus had reached the culmination of his personal work in Galilee, he could only reach it within rather limited limits. He wanted to make an even more general and energetic appeal to this people, whom he was soon to leave. And for that he multiplied himself in a certain way with the mission he entrusted to the Twelve. At the same time, this mission represented progress in the development of the apostles. These disciples, whom he made apostles, he sent as apostles.

Once again, Matthew explicitly marked the number of the twelve disciples that Jesus sent to give them a first missionary test and to prepare the people to receive the word of the kingdom. In this first mission, the disciples had to adhere to God’s purpose for his people, to which Jesus himself submitted, and that was to proclaim salvation primarily to this people: « You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation comes from the Jews » (Jn 4:22).

There were very serious reasons for this, which Paul himself appreciated, even though he was the apostle of the Gentiles: « When the Jews saw the masses, they were filled with jealousy, contradicting Paul’s words and insulting him.  Paul and Barnabas confidently declared to them: « The word of God must first be spoken to you. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, well, we turn to the Gentiles. This is the commandment the Lord has given us: I have made you the light of nations, that through you salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. (Acts 13, 45-47)

That is why Jesus added : « Do not go the way of the Gentiles and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.    » This was the duty of the disciples. After the Jews rejected Jesus, they were given various orders : « Go and make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit » (Mt 28, 19)

A certain theology wanted to see here a contradiction or a progressive development in the views of Jesus himself Nothing more contradicts the testimony of the Gospel; Jesus knew very well that his reign would be universal, even according to the synoptic, not to mention the Gospel of John. In the form of an order, Jesus gave a miraculous gift. In the activity of the disciples, as in that of Jesus, the healings had to prepare the preaching. All the gifts of God are free, just like the gifts Jesus gave to the disciples. To turn them into a means of earthly gain is to degrade and soil them.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊ Aleteia : click here to read the paper → What does it mean that Jesus was moved with pity ?

◊  Catholic culture: click here to read the paper → Jesus at the Sight of the Crowds, Was Moved with Pity

 ♥ When JESUS saw the crowds HE was moved with pity

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