If I’m not careful, I spend my day self-absorbed, tending to my own affairs with great effort. Desiring holiness, I pay attention to my thoughts, words, and actions. Others only marginally receive my consideration. On the contrary, in today’s Gospel, Jesus focuses his attention outside of himself. When encountering a crowd of desperate people demanding his help, Jesus is moved with pity. His primary mode of being was always empathy and concern for the other.
Jessica Powers, a Carmelite poet, expressed this outward movement in her poem, The Mercy of God: “I rose up from the acres of self that I tended with passion and defended with flurries of pride: I walked out of myself and went into the woods of God’s mercy, and here I abide.” I find that, in the graced moments when the Spirit leads me out of myself, God’s mercy permeates and manifests in me a concern for others. I feel empathy in small, yet significant ways—during dinner conversation or for the person I encounter on the sidewalk. And I am more open to being moved by the realities of suffering in the world—that of refugees, of victims of violence, racism, sexism, and homophobia.
Today let’s ask for the grace of being led out of our “acres of self” toward empathy.