Daily Reflection
December 4th, 1999
Shirley Scritchfield
Institutional Research & Assessment
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Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26
Psalms 147:1-6
Matthew 9:35-10:1, 6-8

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”  [Matthew 9:36-38]

I’ve probably heard or read this scripture many times before.  But this time, the words seemed to beckon differently, as if I needed to listen differently…but for what?  What was I to hear this time that I had not heard before?  Let me share my thought processes as the Spirit lead me into this scripture

In verse 36 we are told, Jesus saw the masses of people, people worn with distress, their lives in disarray—and he had compassion.  He didn’t judge, he didn’t criticize or harangue them, instead he responded to them with compassion.  

What does it mean to have compassion?  I usually think of compassion in terms of charity, giving to another, caring for another.  But something tells me that my sense of it is not quite right.  There is something else.  Dividing the word into its roots, I see that com means ”along side” and passion means “feeling.”  When Jesus had compassion for them, he came alongside them—joining with them, feeling with them.  The emphasis is on being with them in their struggles, feeling their pain and distress.  
Then, what do we hear from Jesus about them?  What does Jesus tell the disciples—you and me—what we are to do?  I’m ready—I easily identify with being called to action, action directed to resolving injustices and incorporating mercy.  But, wait, the first words of Jesus regarding the multitude is not to direct human action.  Rather, Jesus tell us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers.  But, I’m already here…I’m already ready to act with compassion.  Why pray first? 

I hate to admit these were the thoughts that ran through my mind as I read this scripture.  The reality is that I have no problem with being called to justice and action with others.  Indeed, I am convinced that God placed a spark within me as a child that calls me to such.  But, sometimes I get caught up in my understanding of what needs to be done, what the outcome should be.  I KNOW what needs to happen!!  And I get so frustrated if (when) things don’t go as I KNOW they should.    

Jesus did not say to me don’t go into the harvest, but he did say “pray,” reminding me that I need God’s presence and grace in all that I do.  I needed to hear that again—to be reminded that my understanding is only a glimpse.  Thanks be to God for the reminder.

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