“His heart was moved with pity for them.” (Mark 6:33)
When was the last time your heart was moved with pity? Not the kind of pity that has been defined for us by Western philosophy, by Hollywood movies and Reality TV. Not the kind of pity that flows from a contemptuous and cynical heart. Not the kind of pity that judges the character or social condition of a vulnerable person.
But Biblical pity. A pity that moves you to exclaim: “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” (I Cor. 15:10) A pity that is born out of the realization that we all share a human condition, we all share human weaknesses, we all share a need to be saved by a power who is greater than I am, a pity like that of Jesus of today’s gospel. In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus’ heart stirred with pity. It was a pity that came from a heart that saw suffering, not as a sign of sin or weakness, but as an opportunity for grace and healing.
How many times did we not see Jesus’ heart moved with pity? When he saw the widow mother burying her son. When we saw Jesus crying over the city of Jerusalem. When we saw Jesus stop in front of a beggar who cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” Jesus was not afraid to let his heart be moved with pity. He was not afraid to cry when he saw people suffer. He was not afraid to do the unthinkable and touch the leper, lay his hands on a dead body and bring it back to life, to respond with kind words and uplifting teaching.
If we are looking for compassion, understanding, love and appreciation, and who of us isn’t, then we would do well to fill our own hearts with pity. We need our hearts to be moved by the suffering and the downtrodden. We need our hearts to ache when we see someone being kicked and stepped upon, no matter the reason.
The readings for today invites us to be good “pastors.” In our first reading, the prophet, Jeremiah, talks about the shepherds that mislead God’s people. For the prophet, a shepherd is anyone who assumes the responsibility leadership. In our society, we have people who are civic and religious leaders. We have people who want to be leaders in government and business. We have people who want to have the power to impose their will on others, just because it’s their will.
The prophet goes on to say, “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble.” God has appointed such a leader for us, Pope Francis. When the Pope speaks, he does not condemn. He does not divide. He does not talk about those who are worthy and those who do not deserve basic human rights. He does not put civil law above Divine Law. He does not impose his will but invites us to follow God’s Will. His heart is truly moved with pity as he walks the streets of the barrios and the favelas, as he visits the prisons and hospitals, and as he embraces the cripple and the lame. He carries within him the heart of Jesus.
We, too, are shepherds. We, too, lead by word and deed. We, too, are called to have hearts that are moved with pity, even as we, ourselves, are hurting. Just because we are hurting and are in need of God’s love and mercy, does not mean that we should have stony hearts. As God touches our hearts with love and mercy, may our hearts be filled with pity toward who need our love and mercy. For all of us, indeed, are God’s beloved.
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Chicago, Illinois.