Is compassion enough to make real change or make good decisions about how to live your life? There are so many voices in our culture today that claim to justify choices about actually changing timeless moral virtues based on their insistence that they are compassionate towards persons who have been marginalized or mistreated. They say that compassion demands we dismantle society and remake society where compassion is the key.
But what happens when claims of compassion are missing wisdom? Is it really compassionate to leave broken people broken and “affirm” them in the surrender to their passions?
Wisdom matures my feelings of compassion so that my compassion isn’t just another escape from doing the hard work of truly loving my neighbor as myself. Wisdom makes compassion effective. Compassion minus wisdom leaves me and my neighbor slaves to our baser passions and addicted to lesser living. The Faith informs my compassion so that it becomes TRUE love of neighbor and sharing this wise compassion with everyone!
Look at our Lesson today in Matthew 9:36-38; 10:1-8:
At that time, when Jesus 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; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaios, and Lebbaeos called Thaddaios; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”
Here we see the Lord “moved with compassion” when He saw the crowd because they were so needy, so harassed by life, and so much like “lost sheep.” He was referring to His own people, the Jews of His day. Even though they had the Scriptures, the Prophets, and the Temple worship, they were lost and the time of their redemption had arrived. So, our Lord, in His customary compassion “harvested” 12 Apostles from these “lost sheep” and then sent them (“Apostle” means “sent one”) to harvest the rest who were ready to be freed from their confusion and darkness.
The Lord goes on to tell these newly “harvested” Apostles to go and share the message of the Kingdom. But He didn’t just send them out to preach; He empowered them to heal! And He further told them NOT to go and do these works among the Gentiles because that “harvest” wasn’t ready. It wouldn’t be ready until years after Pentecost! But when it was ready, the Lord had already “harvested” an Apostle for us as well!
The beauty and the power and the wisdom of knowing when to harvest are only surpassed by the power of this truth: The Lord has already told us it is time to harvest. The fields are “white”; the grain is ready; to risk not having workers to go into the fields means allowing the harvest to rot! God forbid.
Today, what season of life are you in? Where is your own life “ripe” for harvesting the “fruit” of your spiritual maturity? Are you actively and purposefully allowing your life to be “watered” by the wisdom of the faith? “Fertilized” by the beauty of the Liturgy? “Pruned” by the wise Lord of the Harvest from those areas of your life that are no longer life-giving? And finally, are you willing to take up your Lord’s heart cry of looking for “laborers” who will go into the field and harvest others? The Lord of the Harvest looks into your eyes today and asks you “are you willing” because there are so many who are ready to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Lord of the harvest, there are so many around me, including me, who are broken and searching for meaning and peace. And, Lord, the treasure of our Orthodox Faith is the fullness of true human living. I want to make this treasure of Faith available to everyone for their healing. Create in me a strength and the courage to never be stingy in sharing this Faith with everyone. Amen