Our Lenten Devotion for Wednesday, March 16, comes to us from Steadfast Love which features reflections and prayers by Ed Arle and Gil Duchow with inspiration from the works of Henri J.M. Nouwen.
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36 NIV
“But the eyes of Christ which see the splendor of God’s light are the same eyes which have seen the lowliness of God’s people. The same eyes that penetrate God’s eternal mystery have also seen into the innermost being of men and women, who are created in God’s image”
(from Behold the Beauty of the Lord by Henri J.M. Nouwen, page 55Henri)
Have you ever had someone say, “I know how you feel!” but you think to yourself, “How can you possibly know how I feel? How can you know what I’m going through?” And while we may think those thoughts, there’s something inside that truly does long for someone to know how we feel. Perhaps if they did, some of the pain could be lifted as we are drawn closer to that person in compassion and love.
The word compassion means “able to feel with, identify with the feelings of others.” Matthew says that when Jesus saw the crowds as he made his way to the cross, “he had compassion for them.” He didn’t “pity” them, he actually felt their helplessness and pain of life. And do you think Jesus has ever stopped feeling and caring for people? People like you and me? I think not.
I believe that the ability to feel compassion is a profound experience of faith. Like you, when I see the people suffering from the violence in Eastern Europe, I can only imagine how awful it must feel to experience that kind of hopelessness and to struggle through those circumstances. Even though I have never experienced such a horror, I can try to “feel with” those who are struggling. And I know that my feelings are a gift from God, who is loving all of us, especially through our ability to “feel with” others. Jesus’ example of reaching out to those with whom he shared “feelings” is once again a call for each of us to go forth and do likewise.
Dear Jesus, you understand me like no one else ever could. That’s because you walked in my shoes and deliberately took on the role of Good Shepherd to lift me up and carry me home to heaven. Thank You. Amen.