Romans 5: 1-8 & Matthew 9: 35 – 10:8
In this past week or so there have been a number of news headlines about tragic events. Yes there are always tragic events somewhere, many of which we never get to hear about. Yet this week it has really struck me just how many have hit the headlines in just a few days.
There has been the horrendous train crash in India which killed hundreds of people, the tragedy made worse by the plight of families trying to find their loved ones, either dead or alive, but not being able to do so because of the immense task faced by the emergency services and the authorities; there was the stabbing of children in a French children’s playground – Children! Simply enjoying the sun and having fun; there are many wild fires destroying trees, forests, animals, homes, jobs; the wild fire in Canada has been in the headlines because of just how vast the fire has spread, causing smog and smoke to drift for hundreds of miles, causing health risks to those breathing in the thick acrid smoke; and on Tuesday, 4 people were murdered and 3 critically injured in Nottingham.
These are just headline episodes. Thousands more tragedies occur for many people that we never hear about.
It may be the death of a loved one; the loss of a job and home; cupboards bare of food – nothing to eat or feed the children. And there is so much suffering in the world – some of it reported, much of it not.
And so the readings today really struck a chord with me.
In the reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans that we just heard, we hear Paul reminding us that suffering and endurance produces character, and that character produces hope. He is responding to the challenge of how the Church functions in difficult and uncertain times.
Although the context is, of course, very different to the tragedies and suffering in the world today, we can still hold on to our faith that through Jesus, we have peace with God, the gift of his Holy Spirit and joy in the hope of glory. We may suffer but our suffering makes our hope all the more awesome. That God loves us so much that he would send his Son to die for us – the only possible remedy for our desperate situation.
We didn’t design or deserve such a deliverance – it is God’s free gift to every person that ever was, is and will be. And yet!
Even though we profess to love God the Father, to believe in Jesus and the Good News that he brings, to be empowered and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
Yet! When faced with tragedy it is still hard – sometimes too hard. And how do we share that wonderful, amazing gift of God’s love, the hope given to us in Jesus that all who repent of their sins and turn to Him will have eternal life. How do we share that with those who do not yet know God? Who have not yet turned to Jesus? What do such words mean to the grief stricken?
Well I think this is when it is not words that will make the difference. It is not preaching The Word of God that draw people to Him. What words will be heard through the cries and screams of pain and grief? It is action. The time for actions that speak louder than words. And this is what our Gospel reading I think helps us know and understand.
It is about engaging in mission. Or put simply it is about “doing” not “speaking”. Yes we first hear that Jesus was going throughout all the towns and villages teaching and spreading his good news. But we also hear very soon that when Jesus sees the crowds that are drawn to him “he had compassion on them”. He sees that they have needs that require more than just his words but they require action. He feels the pain and anguish that these people are experiencing. He feels the pain and anguish that people in dire circumstances and suffering now, in this time, are enduring. He saw those then, and sees people now who are like sheep, distressed and defenceless, without a shepherd to care for and protect them.
He sees that they need him as the good shepherd as much as they need him as saviour and redeemer.
In the Gospel reading we hear that the work is vast and the moment urgent. It is still vast and it is still urgent. Jesus asks his disciples to pray for more workers – they will soon become the answer to their own prayers. And we today are the answer to those prayers – as have millions of our Christian brothers and sisters who have gone before us.
Jesus calls his disciples together. Then he sends them out to do the very same work that he has been doing. Driving out evil spirits, healing all kinds of illnesses.We are today’s disciples and we are the ones Jesus is calling now to go out in to the world to “do” in his name. We may not all have the gift of healing – but we can certainly visit and give comfort to the sick and dying. We can befriend the lonely and dispirited. We can feed the hungry. Hold the hand of the frightened and grief stricken. Pray for all in need.
We can “do” so much. We don’t have to preach, we don’t have to have the right words – whatever they are in some situations!
And in some situations there are no right words or words are not needed. Our presence and our compassion and our love are all that is needed. There is no-one who can say they cannot do this. For even the least able are most definitely able to pray.
It might not be easy or comfortable – it may require some of our time. But we can all do some small thing. We are called by Jesus, by God the Father to do some small thing.
As St Teresa of Avila said :
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
Whatever the coming days hold for us, and whatever the particular challenges we face, whatever tragedies and disasters happen around us in our communities, in the world, let us pray that we may draw strength as we recognise that Christ is present within our community and let us work together to share the love we know in Christ and offer hope to all who face uncertainty, fear, grief. Let us share the light in to the darkness of the world and people’s lives. As we have freely received from God, let us freely give to those in need.