After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, “Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.”
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
If I’m not careful, I spend my day self-absorbed, tending to my own affairs with great effort. Desiring holiness, I pay attention to my thoughts, words, and actions. Others only marginally receive my consideration. On the contrary, in today’s Gospel, Jesus focuses his attention outside of himself. When encountering a crowd of desperate people demanding his help, Jesus is moved with pity. His primary mode of being was always empathy and concern for the other.
Jessica Powers, a Carmelite poet, expressed this outward movement in her poem, The Mercy of God: “I rose up from the acres of self that I tended with passion and defended with flurries of pride: I walked out of myself and went into the woods of God’s mercy, and here I abide.” I find that, in the graced moments when the Spirit leads me out of myself, God’s mercy permeates and manifests in me a concern for others. I feel empathy in small, yet significant ways—during dinner conversation or for the person I encounter on the sidewalk. And I am more open to being moved by the realities of suffering in the world—that of refugees, of victims of violence, racism, sexism, and homophobia.
Today let’s ask for the grace of being led out of our “acres of self” toward empathy.
Deep in the soul the acres lie
of virgin lands of sacred wood
where waits the Spirit. Each soul bears
this trackless solitude.
The Voice invites, implores in vain
the fearful and the unaware;
but she who heeds and enters in
finds ultimate wisdom there.
The Spirit lights the way for her;
bramble and bush are pushed apart.
He lures her into wilderness
but to rejoice her heart.
Beneath the glistening foliage
the fruit of love hangs always near.
The one immortal fruit: He is
or, tasted: He is here.
Love leads, and she surrenders to
His will. His waylessness of grace.
She speaks no words save his, nor moves
until he marks the place.
Hence all her paths are mystery.
presaging a divine unknown.
Her only light is in the creed
that she is not alone.
The soul that wanders, Spirit led,
becomes, in His transforming shade,
the secret that she was, in God.
before the world was made.
—Jessica Powers (1905-1988) became a Carmelite nun in 1941, joining the Carmel of the Mother of God, Pewaukee, WI. Her religious name was Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.