When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. ~ Mark 6:34
That’s the last line from yesterday’s Gospel, providing inspiration for me as I respond to this month’s 1000 Speak for Compassion link up.
This month’s topic is Acceptance, which Jesus demonstrates perfectly in the reading above. See, the disciples had just come back from preaching and teaching and healing. They were excited to tell Jesus about their adventures, and I’m sure he was excited to hear about them. But all the people wouldn’t leave them alone.
Jesus knew his disciples needed to rest; they hadn’t even had time to eat anything. He suggested they withdraw to a “desolate place” so they could be alone and rest. But the anxious crowds figured out the plan, and pursued them on land as they traveled by boat. So that when they came ashore, thousands of people (the same 5,000 people who are going to be fed miraculously later) were already there waiting for them.
Now, I don’t know about you, but compassion would NOT have been MY first reaction to this ambush! I would have been irritated, and maybe I would have gotten back in my boat and tried for another, more desolate location. But this is where ACCEPTANCE comes in.
Jesus accepts his role as shepherd to these frightened sheep. He gives up his plan of rest and relaxation to care for them. Can we do the same? When you are at work, and it’s almost time to leave, and another customer comes in with an annoying concern, can you ACCEPT that this is where you are supposed to be and have compassion for the needs of that person? When your Facebook friend posts something you disagree with, can you ACCEPT that you have different opinions and have compassion for him? When you are trying desperately to get a moment alone, and your kids are following you around everywhere, can you ACCEPT that your role for this season is to take care of them and have compassion for them? When your spouse seems demanding and you feel like you are already giving 120%, can you ACCEPT that part of marriage is offering compassion even when you aren’t really feeling it?
ACCEPTANCE is the first step to compassion in these situations. We cannot “feel WITH” someone without first accepting our role and our call to be of service to that person. Without acceptance, there is a wall of resentment that prevents true compassion.