“When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36).
This past Sunday, I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in a “street walk” with Christ in the City. What I experienced was both difficult and jarring. Sitting in the stairwell of one of the highway overpasses were three of our friends that live on the streets. They had poor physical health, very little hygiene, and were open about their use of drugs. As my brother seminarians engaged them in conversation, I tried to see the situation the same way that God does. The first thing that I realized was that all three of these people were (at one time) joyful, playful, and adorable children. I could feel my own compassion for them swell as I thought of them as little children, completely dependent and innocent. Immediately the words of the Gospel from Sunday spoke to me, “And he [Jesus] took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mk 9:36-37). The Word of God cut right to the depths of my heart. God was calling me to serve these people through my compassion and love for them as children of God. It is easy to think that fulfilling the material needs of the poor is enough, but God is asking us to participate in a much more intimate way. He invites us to “suffer with” the other, to try and understand the others’ sufferings, and to be patient with them as he is with us. After all this is how Jesus looks at us, with compassion.
“Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbors’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.” – Saint Vincent de Paul
Seminarian for the Diocese of Bismark, North Dakota