Saturday, December 05, 2015

Walk in the Way

The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: “This is the way; walk in it,” when you would turn to the right or to the left.  Isaiah 30-20-21

At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38

Jesus, help us to take our “pity” for others from our hearts to our hands so that we can continue to carry out your kingdom-building mission.

“Pity” is an interesting word choice to describe Jesus’ heart as he looked out on the crowd which was walking all over Galilee with him.  The word sent me into the word origins/etymology resources on the Internet Machine. 

Pity is the state of feeling “mercy, compassion, care, or tenderness for people who are worse off that you.  Closely related to pity is our third leg of the Cursillo tripod – “piety” which means the state of feeling a send of loyalty or duty." Its word origin also refers back to a sense of faith, compassion, mercy and tenderness to God or sometimes to a sense of duty, loyalty, or patriotism to natural ties.  It also can infer honor and respect. Connecting it all is the sense of misericordia – a merciful heart. 

My exploration of this root word also turned up another interesting historical fact.  Prayers in the early medieval church were recited standing with uplifted hands. The old or infirm could use crutches or, as time went on, a small bench called a “misericordia (literally "act of mercy"). For these times of required standing, seating was constructed so that the seats could be turned up. However, the undersides sometimes had a small shelf, a misericord, allowing the user to lean against it, slightly reducing their discomfort. 

In the end, “pity” seems to be something that the strong offer to the weak.  Maybe that means that “piety” is something that the weak offer to the strong?

Jesus has pity on us. Likewise, we have pity on others.  In both cases, if we have a merciful heart, we will be spurred to action. Pity without action is meaningless, sappy emotion – the kind I experience when those late night commercials beg me to give to a charity about which I know very little.  And I go back to sleep.

Jesus uses the occasion to send his disciples out to act.  Jesus is the “master of the harvest,” sending laborers out to carry on his work now so they will be prepared to do so after he is gone. Initially, Jesus sends them to the lost sheep of Israel…but then the mission expands to Samaria and the land of the Gentiles.

Where is your walk taking you this Advent?  No need for planes, trains or automobiles.  Jesus and Isaiah send us out to carry on their work to those who are close to us in distance. 

The homeless man living under the blue tarp at the Braddock Road exit from the Fairfax County Parkway comes to mind.  The woman sitting at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, NW every morning while rushing commuters speed past without compassion, without “misericordia,” without piety or pity.   

As we enter the Year of Mercy, we enter a time to examine our heart and our hands.  What will you DO ABOUT the pity you feel?  Now is not the time to go back to sleep.

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