Monday, July 25, 2011

Matthew 14:13-21

Pentecost +7 - Year A

Matthew 14:13-21

Compassion fatigue is real. Compassionate action is still possible even when fatigued.

Jesus hears of cousin John's senseless execution. His reaction, like yours and mine, was to head off to get his head and heart back on. How is one to make sense of this other than to know our own day of demise is growing closer and closer?

Unfortunately halos the size of Jesus' are difficult to hide. [One of Jim Post's songs has a line in it about Jesus' halo - "nobody else wears a hat like that".] Word got out about Jesus and alternative routes were located by which many, too many, people gathered and Fire Marshall Disciples were upset at the overcrowding.

Coming out of his response regarding John, his need for compassion to be shown to him, Jesus is compassionate and saving/healing/reorienting went on for many who came asking for such. Compassion fatigue is being compounded, no matter how much good is done, so much more is needed.

Those Fire Marshall Disciples thought they saw Jesus' compassion coming to an end and, knowing they still needed theirs, they stepped in to disperse the never-ending story of needed care - "Send them away, compassionately, of course."

Jesus attempts to engage their compassion as an alternative way of responding: join-in, rather than send-away. Their response, "Who? Us? We've got nothing. It's all about you, Jesus."

So a compassionate one simply shows them that they have much more than "nothing".

This may be a choice of the day, decade, eternity - compassion or intolerance. It will not only say something about us, but about what we believe. Does compassion fall within an abundance model, or not?


  1. On 7/25/2011 7:09 AM, Blogger wrote:
    This may be a choice of the day, decade, eternity - compassion or intolerance. It will not only say something about us, but about what we believe.

    This is an apt and completely appropriate choice given the general center of gravity of the culture in which we live. We have to learn this, and then we will have to unlearn it in order to evolve again.

    So I have questions, not at all in argument, but in challenge to that center of gravity:

    Compassion or intolerance: is "compassion" therefore "tolerant?"

    What of those situations where "intolerance" is actually "compassionate?" For example, the (appropriate) intolerance of intolerance? This is not word play. It's really not OK to tolerate intolerance, but that creates an intolerable system crash in the minds of the tolerant.

    For example. who needs to be compassionate or tolerant of those "poor" wealthy privileged powerful emotional troglodytes currently running Congress? How does it help to be tolerant of idiocy or ignorance or sexism or greed or heterosexism or bigotry or ideological fanaticism?

    Compassionate: maybe, when such "poor" have been irretrievably broken by their life circumstances. But tolerant? NO, NO, NO.

    The tricky part is to be intolerant of such things out of a higher/deeper/truer context and not just another ideological "my dog's bigger than your dog." Maybe that is what Jesus was trying to get across...

    Does compassion fall within an abundance model, or not?

    Three questions hiding in the apparent One.

    "Does compassion fall within an abundance model, or not?" is to ask

    1. Is compassion and its action sustainable: if we keep compassioning at current rate how soon will we use it up?

    2. Is compassion and its action renewable: if it is something that can get depleted (fatigue) then how do we renew it? Planting trees to replace harvested ones seems easy in comparison...

    3. Can compassion and its action be regenerative: can it draw on some inexhaustible source outside/larger than ourselves and actually create/generate more than is used? Like a regenerative building that runs its electric meter backwards and pushes excess power back out on to the grid...

    Jesus did indeed wear a hat unique and unmistakable. But I do not for one minute believe he was embracing a "black hole" (from which even light does not escape) when he went to the cross. He was not tolerating the intolerance that nailed him to that course. I believe his compassionate action was regenerative: If the Christ event is whenever and wherever the Word becomes Flesh, then the resurrection event is wherever and whenever death, the singularity sucking relentlessly at every life but present in legion forms in every moment, does not prevail.

    This, I believe, is the great challenge before us in this day, decade, eternity: can we evolve spiritually as a humanity so that what is now seen as heroic and remarkable and rare (deep abundant sustained compassion and embrace that does not tolerate intolerance in a way that does not also cause a cognitive system crash) is a baseline characteristic of what may yet become the next stage beyond Homo Sapiens: Homo Compassionatus.


  2. Thanks for the unpacking, Tom. The question about the level of which, is important. This reminds us that we can't look at the surface or presenting response and know whether it is compassionate or intolerant. There are ages of background and generations of consequence to play with. I'd be interested in other responses to unsimplifying these two. They are much too easy to turn into technique or judgment and be subverted by New Speak.



Thank you for blessing us with your response.