Thirty First Sunday
The Lord hears the plea of a blind man and responds. Throughout God's revelation to us in Scripture, the passages are very simple, When he saw the crowds Matthew 9: 36. How something is seen or perceived, differs with each person or thing that is encountered. We have been told that many hawks can see a dime on a sidewalk below from the top of the Empire State Building. Those who are in the know claim that its vision is so good that it can see something the size of a dime from that distance.
On the other hand, the kingfisher bird has two kinds of seeing. When he soars over the water looking for fish, he has a lens that will allow him to see into the depth of the water. When he dives into the water, the lens changes and he can see under water so he can grab the fish for food.
Soldiers, military people, police officers and firefighters often wear infrared goggles so they can see in the smoke or in the dark, That is a way of seeing. There are electronic microscopes that physicians use to see on an atomic level. And though it is an oxymoron in language, there are radio telescopes that allow us to probe the outer reaches of space.
Seeing varies from person to person, but the question comes back to us: How do we see people? When you are late getting to work or school and all those people are crowding the highways, how do you see them? As people who are in your way? As people who are obstructing your progress? Do you see them as a nuisance? Perhaps you just wish they would get out of your way! So, how do you see people? Do you see people the way the Lord looks upon the blind man today?
The retailer sees people as individuals whom he wants to sell something to. A physician sees people as patients and someone whom he needs to treat. An artist may look at people and see individuals he wants to paint. A writer may see people as objects of a story. How do you see people? Jesus saw the multitudes and their desperate condition. He saw them weary and worn out. He saw them distracted, damaged, attacked, isolated, hurting. Jesus saw them as they were. As his followers, we have to see people just as Jesus sees them.
We have to begin looking at the exploding population of this world as Jesus sees it. There is a last frontier of people who have never heard the gospel. Far more closer to home are our own fellow Orthodox believers who have never really had the gospel message made plain and attractive for hem, never had it preached by a priest, bishop or deacon who really cared about saving their souls! We need more than just priests or deacons preaching and teaching. If we look at people through the perspective of Christ, we see all of you, all who are baptized assuming responsibility for sharing the message of salvation with our world, in our town, in our neighborhood.
This is the real world we live in. Jesus want us to see the world as He sees it. Ands it is not just a shame that people do not have the gospel. It has eternal implications if they never hear it because the gospel is the good news of hope for forgiveness and salvation. The gospel is the good news of God's gift, the offer of eternal life. We Orthodox have to see the world as Jesus sees the world. So the divine mission demands that we go like Jesus went and it demands that we sees like Jesus sees and understands.
Scripture simply states that Jesus ...felt compassion Matthew 9: 36. Some translations may say He was "moved" with compassion. A Japanese man who read this passage, recognizing there is no word for compassion in Japanese, saw the statement translated in his Scripture as "Jesus loved them until it hurt."
The word in Greek translated as "compassion" is a Technicolor word. It is an explosive word in its meaning. The root words means "chief intestines," the viscera of the human body, the bowels. It hurt Jesus through his whole being to see their souls so needy. Jesus looks at these people and He did not just see their need. He did not just observe their pain. He felt their pain. He hurt through his innermost being in the depths of his physical body. Jesus hurt for these people like He hurt for the blind man today. He felt for them. The divine mission demands that we not share the gospel with detachment, that we not simply observe the suffering of the world with avid interest, but that we actually empathize, hurt with, feel with people who need the blessing and grace of Jesus Christ in their lives.
There is an important distinction between sympathy and empathy. If I sympathize with you, I observe your pain and I feel sorry for you. But if I empathize with you, I feel your pain. And that is what Jesus did. Jesus felt the needs of the people. He not only saw their needs; He felt their needs. This was the difference between him and others of his day. The religious leaders of Jesus' day did not react to the genuine needs of the people like that. Annas and Caiphas, the high priests, would literally drive people with whips out of the temple to keep them away. How differently Jesus looks at the people. He feels for them, He feels deeply for them and does something about it!
It is true we live in a world that conspires to insulate us from feeling. Everything about our culture tends to make us calloused. Everywhere around us, we see violence, murder, war, disrespect, disease, tragedy and disastrous devastation. We see so much of it that we often observe it just casually. Our whole culture has insulated us. Perhaps it started for many of us during the past wars our nation has entered into when we are being given blow by blow battle and death descriptions during the supper hour of what happened in the world of sin and destruction that day. We began to be exposed to all the tragedies and horrors we ourselves release on the world.
Add to that all we witness today and it is devastating. It all blunts our sensitivity of soul. If the Church is going to accept its part in the mission of God, we must begin feeling as Jesus feels.
What will have to happen to us to make us feel the way Jesus feels? We have had many many opportunities. We have wept with the families and survivors of those killed on September 11, 2001. We associated ourselves in grief on the day the space shuttle Columbia exploded. We did not know these people, but somehow in some way we identified with that happened.
What will have to happen to make us feel again? What will have to happen to us so we do not just casually observe a world around us, but somehow see people as they are - human beings who are distracted, devastated, hurting, cheated of their destiny, deprived and dying? When Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion. When Jesus saw the blind man today, from the depth of his being, He felt for him!