Sunday, 3 August 2014
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
I'd like to say a few words today about how we can know that God cares about us in our problems, how we can know that He wants to respond to our needs.
Maybe your problems are small, just in need of a holiday rest, or maybe your problems are big. Regardless, God cares. God looks down from heaven, He sees you, He knows you, and He cares.
Let me start by referring to our second reading, where we heard St Paul recounting how, in his various trials, and the difficulties of those he was writing to, that "Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ"(Rom 8:35), and he made a further point that I want to elaborate on: He referred to the "love of God made VISIBLE in Christ Jesus"(Rom 8:39) -this is the point, something has been made VISIBLE in Jesus, something that shows that God cares.
Let me make a contrast:
The Ancient Greek philosophers of Athens taught about what God was like, about His essence, about how He was not a material body like us, about how He didn't suffer or have limitations, and how He didn't FEEL things like emotions.
The God of the Hebrews likewise had manifested Himself as being utterly transcendent, being beyond human capacity to comprehend, "my thoughts are above your thoughts" (Isa 55:8) was a repeated refrain. He revealed many things by what He DID; His actions SPOKE about what He was concerned about -but as to what He might be like in His very ESSEENCE, in that respect He remained largely unknown.
That changed in Jesus Christ: In the incarnation, God Himself, in the second person of the Trinity, took human flesh. And in that taking of flesh He showed what God was like.
When God took flesh, when He lived in our human nature, which of our vast range of possible human emotions was He seen to experience and manifest? Because the emotions He experienced, the manner in which He emotionally reacted to things and to people, this shows us what God is like. And our gospel text for today gives us one of a number of examples in the Gospels which refer explicitly to His inner life, referring to His emotions.
The Gospel we heard today described the emotion He felt on seeing the hungry and needy crowd: It said that "He felt COMPASSION for them"(Mt 14:14). And this is a word that is used repeatedly in the Gospels when the texts refer to the emotion or passion He experienced in seeing people in need.
Sadly, although our Mass translation texts sometimes translate the word as ‘compassion’ (e.g. Lk 10:25-37, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C), the text today rather weakly translates the word as “pity”: the Greek word is actually splangchnizomai from the Greek word splangchna for bowels or entrails, which indicates that the Lord Jesus felt all churned-up inside, in His guts. He didn't see the crowds in need and then coldly and INDIFFERENTLY help them, no, He FELT, and felt-with them -that is what 'compassion' means, to be with-passion, to feel-with someone.
Jesus feels-with us in our needs.
He was hungry in the desert, He was thirsty and in pain on the cross, He was sad and wept when Lazarus died -any emotion or trial YOU are going through HE feels with you. He has taken our human nature and has compassion, 'feeling-with' us.
AND, before I conclude: He not only FEELS with us, He DOES things to remedy our problems.
So, we can say with certainty, that whatever your need is, He is DOING something about it. He is reaching out to assist you, assist you in a way that He knows even better than you do
Today's text from Isaiah and our Gospel text both speak of The Lord FEEDING the people when they were hungry. And this is but own of many examples of Scripture showing us that The Lord is a powerful God, an active God -He sees and responds to our need.
So, to return to my opening question: how do we know that God cares?
Because He is not unknown. He has manifested Himself. He has taken flesh and has compassion, is feeling-with us in our troubles.