Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
December 4th, 2010

Alex Rödlach

Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew includes a powerful statement about Christ’s compassion for human suffering and his passion to address it: “At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” “Pity” is perhaps not the best translation of the word used in the original Greek text, which can be better translated with “compassion,” referring to an expression of deepest emotion, a strong inner movement of sympathetic feeling aroused by the sight of misery. Jesus was moved with compassion seeing that people were troubled but had none to guide them and to support them. They were abandoned by the political and religious establishment. He was deeply moved by people’s troubles and felt a deep sense of vocation to address their troubles. With him the prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled, with him God’s promise uttered through the Old Testament prophet was becoming reality: “No more will you weep; God will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears he will answer you. The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.”

What is striking in these two texts is that the emphasis is all but abstract: God will provide bread and water, in other words, essential necessities of life. Today we would say that God enforces basic human rights, which are unalienable, not depending on socioeconomic status, or said differently, if someone has the money to afford them!

Christ sent out his disciples to drive out unclean spirits and to cure every illness. Within the language of human rights, this would refer – among other items – also to the human right to health. Even though most of us would without doubt support this basic human right, the realities we live in make it evident that our society does not guarantee health as a human right. In our society health can be compared with a commodity that can be purchased by those who afford it. The rest has to put up with whatever is available to them in case of emergencies.

Christ is also adamant that we should not follow the profit motif when addressing basic human rights. His disciples are told “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

We are his disciples. We are called to do our share in guaranteeing the welfare of others. We are called to selflessly serve others. We are invited during Advent to pray over these issues.
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