#30: Entering another’s pain

In this story, Jesus ‘had compassion’ on the crowds. At least, that’s how it’s usually, politely, translated. A more accurate translation is that his ‘guts wrenched.’: Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:35-38)

 John Koenig is a dean at a theological college, and an Episcopal priest.

Once, as I ministered at the altar during a special time of intercession and laying on of hands, a parishioner named Tom approached my station. I knew that Tom had cardiac problems and was struggling with addiction; this was the prayer request he had made before, and what I expected him to request that night. But now Tom asked for something else. “And would you please pray also for my sister Maggie, who is dying of cancer?” Somehow Tom’s simple request overwhelmed me. Sorrow and fatigue gripped me, and I broke into tears. Everyone’s need was so much greater than I had imagined. This last petition seemed just too much, too heavy to bear. When I started to cry, Tom did too. But then, putting my hands on his shoulders, I suddenly began to speak bold words over him. They flowed out like fresh water, washing away the tears. To this day, I believe that the prayer I offered was not really my own. No magic occurred: Maggie died soon afterward, and Tom continued to grapple with the pain in his life. But a few months later, I discovered that his conviction was like my own: some new kind of health had come to birth in each of us that night. Strangely, in the very expression of our grief, God’s love had welled up in our bodies and minds to renew us. Ω

Reflect: Remember a time when your ‘guts wrenched’ at another person’s pain. What happened in that moment? Tell God about it, and allow the spirit to flow through you now.

#Lent2020 © Sanctuary, 2020 quoting John Koenig ‘Healing’ in Dorothy C. Bass (ed.), Practicing Our Faith. A Way of Life for a Searching People. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997. Order your copy from your favourite bookseller.


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