Saturday, December 3rd: Harassed and helpless

From today’s Eucharistic lectionary:

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

What images does this conjure up for you?

Christmas shoppers?

Pepper-sprayed protesters?

Cardboard cities?

Huddled masses at refugee camps, disputed borders?

Those clamouring for adequate health care?

Peer-pressured youths at a holiday party?

Jesus has been travelling the towns and the cities, teaching in synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, healing every sickness and disease. This outburst, in the midst of his activity, follows a slew of healing encounters, a smorgasbord of need. It is enough, perhaps, to leave even Jesus feeling harassed and helpless.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few,” he tells his disciples; “therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

Jesus, surrounded by need, harassed helpless need, tells his disciples to pray that God will send help. Then he answers their prayers by sending them out themselves, to proclaim the good news, to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons! (Matthew 10:7-8)

Jesus was moved with compassion by the extent of harassed helplessness he saw around him. Perhaps you know the feeling. It can be overwhelming. But instead of succumbing to hopeless resignation, Jesus prayed, and he recruited help.

Today, I am praying that God will guide my compassion to those areas of need where I am able to recruit help, to receive the power of the Spirit to do remarkable things. I know that, with God, all things are possible. And I know that when I feel harassed, I am never without a shepherd; when I feel helpless, God has gone before and recruited the help of the disciples, my friends in Christ, so that together we can proclaim good news.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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