Last week we began Lent. We packed up a few words as we got ready for the journey: enthusiasm and splagchnizomai (an ancient greek word that means to let one's innards embrace the feeling or situation of another.) One of the English words we use to translate the meaning is "compassion."
Matthew 15:32 “Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way."
Jesus is unwilling to overlook the hunger of those who were following him. He feels deep compassion for them. They are hungry spiritually and physically. Unlike the Roman Empire he is unwilling to render the crowd (the little people of the empire) as helpless. Reading on in the story Jesus' disciples are astonished that he would even consider that there was enough food in the wilderness to feed this crowd. But Jesus is not focussing on what they don't have; he asks a different question, "What do you have?" He asks the question not in scorn. It comes from his gut feelings of compassion.
Much of our culture continually asks us, "What is it you don't have and what is it you need to get to be happy?" It is a story line that we have become used to and it can numb our enthusiasm for who we are. The tone is critical and judgmental. We can always up our game, buy something more that satisfies our cravings, plan an event that will make us happy. The sound of Jesus question comes to us like healing waters. "What do you have?" It breaks open the heart again. When asked this question with such deep compassion it has the potential to provide us with a new story line for fulfillment.
My son sent out an email to the family last Friday. It was a song, "How Could We Not Believe?" by Ben and Ellen Harper. The song gave us bread for our hungry belly at the end of our week. We were all tired. The song fed us. And as happens when we taste something good we pass it on to others. For me it became the first song of opening for lent. I played the song to Wellspring as we hung our prayer flags last Sunday and set up our altar for the season. I invite you to listen and open your heart to the compassionate question of Jesus as we move through Lent. What do you have? To look deep inside and find what it is we each have to offer to life not only feeds us; it feeds and blesses the people and the world around us.
Consider buying the song if you like the music.