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Uncomfortable Compassion


Readings: Lev 19:11-18; Matt 25:31-46

Scripture: What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me. (Matt 25:45b)

Reflection: Even after a lifetime of hearing this verse from Matthew again and again, it still makes me cringe. I have a hard time imagining I won’t be shunted off with the goats when it comes time to divide the herd. Not because I don’t want to help those in need—I’ll throw money in the basket or collect clothes and canned goods whenever asked—but my care and concern for “these least ones” never causes me discomfort. From my warm home with its table laden with too much food and closets bursting with too much stuff, a material donation now and then doesn’t seem to rise to the level of what Jesus is asking of his followers.

This past summer, my older daughter, Olivia, left the comfort of her air-conditioned, suburban life to spend a week in Appalachia renovating homes. She returned from West Virginia a changed young woman, set on doing something with her life that would have a direct impact on those suffering in ways she had not previously seen or imagined. Living out this gospel verse for just one week transformed her worldview and her life. Maybe that’s the part we forget when we restrict ourselves to comfortable compassion. Serving others is not meant to change only them; it is also meant to change us.

Meditation: We tend to recognize that children benefit from serving others. In fact, it’s typically a requirement for confirmation students. We understand that direct service will make them better Christians, better citizens. We seem to forget that we grown-ups could benefit from that same approach. Serving others not only provides for those in need but also transforms our perspective on our own life and on our world. We become more grateful, more compassionate, more generous, more loving when we push out of our comfort zones and into the lives of those on the margins. Can you find a person or project that needs your help this Lent and serve in a way that may cause you a little discomfort even as it opens your heart in new and life-changing ways?
Prayer: Jesus, the Good Shepherd, give us the courage to go to the edges to reach those in need, even if it challenges us, even if it makes us uncomfortable, so that we may truly love our neighbors as ourselves.


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Tagged: Faith Lent Religious

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