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Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 13th September 2020.

Today I have some further thoughts on the topic of ‘Compassion’, which I discussed in my Thought for the Day on 28 June.

We are all familiar with the New Testament stories about the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude who gathered to listen to him and/or to be healed. There are in fact two separate stories about Jesus feeding a multitude of people. The “Feeding of the 5,000”, is the only miracle of Jesus feeding of a multitude of people recorded in all four gospels. (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44;-Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14). The “Feeding of the 4,000” is reported by Matthew (Matthew 15:32-39) and Mark (Mark 8:1-9), but not by Luke or John.

In Mark’s version of the Feeding of the five thousand, Mark uses the word ‘compassion’:

‘As [Jesus] went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’ But he answered them, “YOU give them something to eat.”’

Whilst Jesus had great compassion for the multitude, when it came to the disciples suggesting that the people be sent away in order to eat, Jesus, in his compassion, said, “YOU give them something to eat.” I have deliberately highlighted the word ‘YOU’. Of course, in the end, Jesus exercises his compassion (he was obviously testing the disciples about their own compassion) by feeding the crowd miraculously with five loaves of bread and two fish. I think that sometimes we may be guilty of relying on someone else to show compassion – it’s not our problem.

Some of you reading this may recall me using this story in a sermon I gave in church a few years ago. It is about two churchwardens talking at the back of the church one Sunday. The first one said: ‘You know, when I read in the papers about all the starving people in the world, I sometimes feel like getting angry with God and saying to him, “Why aren’t you doing something about it?” The second one said: “Well if you feel so strongly about it, why don’t you get angry with God and ask him why he isn’t doing something about it.” “I don’t think I can”, answered the first churchwarden, after a pause, “because he might ask me the same question.”

Jesus leads by example, and teaches us to show compassion towards those in need, those in trouble and those who are suffering. Another story about compassion is, of course, the story of the Good Samaritan, who looks after a man beaten up and left half-dead by robbers.

Compassion can be passive or active. It is passive when we care about the condition of others, but active when we take up the challenge to ‘do something about it’. All the charities supporting the starving, the sick, the homeless, etc., must all have started up because someone saw a human problem and decided to ‘do something about it’.

There is so much we can all do to actively show compassion for those in need. I am sure you all have your own favourite charities. I myself regularly support the Barnabas Fund, which provides aid throughout the world to Christians who are being persecuted, providing food, clothing, shelter, medical supplies and other things. And of course they rely on people like you and me to finance their work. As part of our Christian duty to love our neighbour, we need to give support to the charities that help those in distress, whenever we can, and by however much, large or small, that we can. In Matthew 10:42, Jesus says, “… whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward”. What someone gives does not have to be large. Giving £1.00 a month to help the starving in Africa, for example, isn’t going to provide much food, but if a million people give a £1.00 a month, it can make a massive difference to a lot of people.

During the present pandemic, a lot of people have lost their jobs, or have had their incomes greatly reduced, and they may not feel able to give to support charities as they have done in the past. So here’s an idea – lets have compassion on them, and when those of us who can afford to support charities make our next donation, perhaps we can add a little extra on behalf of those unable to do so at the moment. Just a thought!

Fr. Ray