Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Root of Compassion

Yesterday we had our first Lindisfarne Day. I hope it will be the first of many. A small group of us gathered to share the rhythm of Celtic prayer interspersed with talking about calling or, to use a more unfashionable word, vocation. It was no surprise to hear, as participants talked about their vocations, that they always included caring for others.

Of course, the idea of caring for others isn’t exclusively found in Christianity. This idea, or should I make it stronger and say command, can be found in almost all world religions. In addition, many people who would self-identify as non-religious, would consider their calling to be one of helping and caring for others.

There is in humanity a root of compassion. Something deep within that makes us want to help others (human and non-human). When we see those who are in pain, lonely, in emotional anguish or hungry something deep in us responds and we want to help. Of course, it is beyond our human capacity to respond to every need we see or hear about. Yesterday, as we talked, it became clear that a particular calling is one person’s response to one tiny bit of that need.

In the gospel reading today Jesus responds to a need. Jesus went to the house of one of the disciples, Simon. The story tells us that Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. She was sick.  The story continues and tells us that Jesus went to her and healed her.

Then in turn she got up and served Jesus and the four accompanying disciples. I suppose we could read this and say that Jesus healed her so she could serve them. I don’t think that is right. It would give the story a very selfish twist.

What I think we see in these few verses in Mark is the reciprocal nature of compassion. They each had something to give to the other.

Yesterday, briefly, we touched on the idea that when one is in a situation where one is caring for people all the time it is possible to get into a “them and us” mentality. This is always wrong. If we take that attitude we may miss so much that the other person has to offer. We are all part of humanity and, as such, at times we have needs ourselves as well as compassion for others.

A second thing this morning’s gospel reading highlighted is the need to take time to recharge. The story tells us that after Jesus had healed Simon’s mother-in-law he continued to minister and healed many more people. Then in the early hours of the morning Jesus escaped. The story tells us he went to a deserted place while it was still dark.

This is such a need for everyone involved in caring for others: a time to be alone, a space to be quiet, a time to recoup one’s energy . . . both physical and emotional. This brief time of recharging allows us to return to caring with renewed purpose and energy because as Albert Schweitzer says,

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”