July 19, 2015


When he … saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them.

                                        - Mark 6: 34

   I dare say most of us here have experienced compassion burn-out. We learn to push & shove & compete & lean on our car horns when an elderly pedestrian is slow in crossing the street, & soon these things become habits, even reflex reactions. There are drivers who lean on their horns automatically. There are people who automatically say “No!” when someone approaches them for help, financial or otherwise. There are those who automatically look the other way when they see someone in distress, so as not to get involved. There are those who are absolute masters at automatically changing the subject when someone tries to share a problem or hurt with them.

   There are so many demands, so much need in the world that we just throw up our hands & ask, “What can one person with limited resources do?” Material resources go only so far, & we must exercise discretion & set priorities or we would go nuts. But that isn’t the real issue here in today’s Gospel.

   Jesus’ expression of compassion is to teach the people even though He must have been tired & feeling harassed Himself. Now there is a curious fact about teaching. When we give money, one person is richer & the other poorer; but when we share our knowledge or understanding (in this case, about God the Father), both parties become richer. Sometimes the best way to show compassion is simply to show that we care.

   There is the story of a hospital nurse who escorted a tired, anxious young man to the bedside of an elderly man:

“Your son is here,” she whispered to the patient. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened. He was heavily sedated & he dimly saw the figure of the young man standing beside the bed. He reached out his hand, & the young man tightly wrapped his fingers around it, squeezing a message of encouragement.

   The nurse brought a chair to the bedside & all through the night the young man sat, holding the old man’s hand, & offering general words of hope. The dying man said nothing, & as dawn approached, he died. The young man placed gently on the bed the lifeless hand he had been holding. Then he went to notify the nurse.

   The nurse began to offer him words of sympathy, but he interrupted her. “Who was that man?” he asked. The puzzled nurse replied, “I thought he was your father.” “No,” said the young man, “I never saw him before in my life.” To which the nurse said, “Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?” He responded, “I sensed that he really neededhis son, who just wasn’t there. Then I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, & I knew how much he needed me.”

   The most important thing Jesus does for any of us is to make us realize just how much we need Him! That’s why those people had followed Him to that deserted place – they sensed how much they needed Him. If our Lord & saints like St. Vincent de Paul & Mother Teresa do not experience burn-out, it is because they have an infinite resource to draw upon: God. If we are able to show real compassion – not merely checkbook compassion – it will be for the same reason.  AMEN!