Compassion for those in anguish


The Gospel of Matthew records the story of Joseph and Mary and Jesus fleeing for their lives to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-18).  William Murray summarizes what happened: “Jesus, as a small boy, knew the pain of fleeing a bloody land where the innocent were slaughtered.  He saw the terror in His mother’s eyes as His family fled at night, hurriedly and quietly under the cover of darkness for fear of discovery.  A death sentence had been issued by Herod the Great for Him and every male child under the age of two.”

When you have a personal taste of the anguish of another, it is difficult not to care about those who are going through such anguish.

While working in Iraq with Samaritan’s Purse and ministering to people who have had to flee their homes and villages under threat of death from ISIS, Caryn Pederson has developed compassion for displaced persons, and she has noticed the connection to what Mary, Joseph, and Jesus endured.  She writes, “After fleeing for their lives, displaced Iraqis now have to endure another threat: winter….

“‘These people are fleeing a depth of persecution and evil I can’t comprehend,’ said Ron Keegan, a Samaritan’s Purse staff member in Iraq.

“The same was true for Mary and Joseph.  Meeting those who escaped ISIS’ beheadings—leaving homes, cars, and businesses behind—made Herod’s slaughter of all boys under two-years-old more real to me.  I have a new appreciation for the sacrifices Jesus and His family made at the beginning of His life and not just at the end of it.  After Mary had already endured scorn over her pregnancy and delivered her baby in a place designed for animals, she fled on a night’s notice to a place with strange customs, living as a refugee in order to save her son.

“As I remember the cold and the living conditions of displaced people in Iraq, I will pray for their protection and thank my Savior, once a refugee, for another layer of His love for the world.”

When you have a personal taste of the anguish of another, it is difficult not to care about those who are going through such anguish.

That’s the kind of God we meet in Jesus—a God who has experienced human anguish and who cares deeply for those facing such anguish themselves.

In his book In the Company of Jesus, Bill Donahue offers an insight about John’s report of Jesus crying at the tomb of Lazarus in John 11: “I think the Son of Man wept because he had no alternative.  It was the full expression of His humanity.  If Jesus couldn’t weep at the death of a close friend, surrounded by grieving family and neighbors, then He may have been God but He was no human.  The assertion that ‘the Word became flesh’ would have been a cruel hoax.”

Fortunately, the claim that God became flesh is not a cruel hoax.  God became one of us and endured human anguish, and He cares deeply enough to cry with us!

Where does that leave us now?

The God who became one of us endured human anguish and cares immensely for those who are facing human anguish of any form, and He calls us to be His expression of such care in the world today.

Pope Francis argues, “Just as He is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other…. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”

May we never turn a cold heart toward those who are in anguish!


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