|Saint Martin de Porres - Memorial
One side effect of my father's illness is his suffering from a filling up of fluids in his body. It's called edema, or "dropsy." So I have a vivid image of Jesus looking at this man across the table from him, suffering from this condition. I can imagine the conflict within Jesus' heart as his compassion for the man wells up within him. He knew that the religious leaders would not approve of his going out of his way for this man, on the sabbath. Was he fed up with faith and ritual without compassion? Was he preparing us to confront the tough issues we face today?
My reflections this morning go in three directions: my dropsy, the invitation to compassion, and the example of Martin de Porres.
I feel dropsy-like sometimes. I'm "filling up," with all kinds of stuff. Some "infection," "toxin," "dis-ordered" pattern within me too often leads to a "back-up" of feelings and emotions. Without a way for it to "drain," the build up of pressure leads to further bad behavior and turmoil for others. It is incredibly consoling to imagine Jesus looking on me with compassion, understanding all that's going on in me, and simply forgiving and healing me. I want to rest with how much joy that man felt when Jesus looked at him, not as an "unattractive" character, but looked on him with love and healed him. I so want to know that joy.
Secondly, I realize how often I am turned off by, overlook, or no longer see, the suffering of others. Of course, it is part of the self-absorbing quality of struggling a bit myself. Watching Jesus look with deep compassion on this man he sat across the table from, even though he had every excuse in the world to ignore him, inspires me. It is an invitation to open my eyes and open my heart to the suffering of those around me. Complicated suffering, messy suffering, unattractive suffering. Suffering that might possibly be the result of something the person had done wrong himself or herself. Then, I can do com-passion, or suffer-with. It's the way I have been loved.
And, Martin de Porres is surely a power-ful witness to compassion. Martin was Peruvian, born in Lima. He came into this world "unwanted." His father was a Spanish officer, but he mother was a free Black woman. Somehow, he must have experienced love, that opened him to the love of God for him. He turned that compassion into caring for those who were suffering more than he was, apprenticing as a barber-surgeon. By God's grace he responded to the call to join the Dominican Order as a brother. He gave the rest of his life to caring for the "unwanted." He wore the simplest of clothes, while begging the wealthy to help him feed and clothe the poor. He established an orphanage for abandoned children. Today, his memory is beloved across the Americas, as the patron of social justice and interracial love.
Dear Lord, Jesus. so love and heal my heart that I might be
a servant of your own compassionate love. Today. With those
who are most in need. With what you have given me.
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