Compassion  (Proper 8B)

Mark 5, verses 21-43

I remember reading of a man who was once involved in a terrible car accident.  When he was cut from the wreckage, there was so little life left in him that the paramedics and then the doctors gave little hope of survival.

However, after the surgeons had done their work, he did survive – but at what cost: both legs were gone, his left arm was missing together with part of the collarbone.  Only a finger and thumb remained on his right hand.

However, he still possessed a brilliant mind, enriched by a good education and broadened with world travel.

And it all was wasted.  There seemed to be nothing he could do in his helplessness.

A thought then came to him.  It is always a delight to receive letters, but why not write them.  He could still use his right hand with some difficulty.  But to whom could he write?

Was there anyone shut in and incapacitated as he was, and whom his letters would encourage?  He thought of’ men in prison.  They did have some hope of release, unlike him, but it was a try

He wrote to a Christian organisation concerned with prison ministry.  He was told that his letters could not be answered, as this was against prison rules.  However, he decided to start on this one-sided correspondence.

He wrote twice a week and it taxed his strength to the limit.  But into these letters, he put his whole soul, all his experience, all his faith, all his wit, and all his Christian optimism.

It was hard writing these letters, often doing so in pain, and especially since there was no chance of’ a reply There were times when he got discouraged and was tempted to give it up.  But he carried on.

At last, he got a letter.  It was a very short note written on prison stationery by the officer whose duty it was to censor the mail.

All it said was ‘Please write on the best paper you can afford.  Your letters are passed from cell to cell, until they literally fall to pieces’

I bring that rather moving story to your attention because it tells us something of the nature of’ compassion.

Compassion is about giving. It is about giving unconditionally, without thought of reward or acknowledgement.  It is about going on giving even it’ sometimes it hurts.

It’s about DOING rather than just talking.  Words are cheap; actions cost.

Look at our Bible story for today.  Here is Jesus, being jostled by the crowd, as he tried to get on his way to see a little girl who was terminally ill.  It would be noisy, frenetic, and, no doubt, frustrating.

Yet, Jesus gave up precious time for the woman who wanted to be healed.  He gave all of his time and attention to this poor anonymous woman in the crowd.  Jesus had time for her, because compassion always has time for everyone, even the apparently hopeless and worthless of folk.

It cost him time, and, more importantly, it cost him something of himself.  He felt his power ebb out of him, when she touched him.  No real help can ever be given except at the cost of something of oneself.

There must have been days when from morning to night, Christ was surrounded by people begging him for help, and he freely gave it.  Every time he gave, it cost him something.  All the time, he was using himself up.

It was not simply wisdom that Christ gave to people; it was not simply healing; it was Himself.

Supremely, he gave of himself on the Cross.

Look at that Cross – beneath it, all the cruelty, apathy and self-centredness that lack within humanity was on display.

But from it, flowed all the love, forgiveness and compassion that God has for us, his errant children.

With the sign of the Cross in our hearts, with the divine compassion alive within us, let us start today with a burning desire to practice the same compassion with a new humility, a new liberality, and a new joy

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