Readings for August 2, 2020
Psalm 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18
Romans 8:35, 37-39
A Guest Reflection by Megan Smith*
The summer between fifth and sixth grade, one of my close friends died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm. We were at the beach the day before, and the next day I was told that she would never wake up. After that, I started to look at my friends and loved ones differently. I realized that each of them is going to die, and that I will always wish that I had loved them more, been more selfless, more present. In this way, I have found that loss has the ability to open my eyes, and gift me with an enhanced empathy and awareness of those around me.
In this week’s readings, I think that the death of John the Baptist hit similarly for Jesus. “When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” He put a pause on serving others and took time for himself to reflect, to mourn. And when he emerged from his mourning he found a crowd of people waiting for him, and when he saw them “his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.” Following this, he fed them all by sharing his infamous loaves and fishes. This is both the compassion and the humanity of Jesus.
And I do think it is crucial to acknowledge that humanity. Jesus weeps, he mourns, he flips tables, he suffers and feels pain to the degree he cries out “Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus is the bridge between humankind and God. He is both parts. Divinely human. Here to lead by example, and show me how to make the most of my life on earth. And the message is a simple one: step away for a moment to recollect myself and to reflect when I am sad or broken or simply need to; and when I am ready to return, return to service and resume actively loving. I am human and I can and should rest. This is why we have Sundays, for even God took a day to rest, and because I can’t pour from an empty cup. But when I return, I must love. Love wholly and indiscriminately and compassionately. Tend to the sick, and be generous in sharing my gifts. Even when it seems like I don’t have enough to feed the many, to right the injustices, to make everyone feel safe and welcomed, I should share what I do have, and ask that others pass it around. And in sharing, I will find a greater abundance and joy than I ever would have felt otherwise.
I could choose to act and live for myself, but “Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?” To choose a life of faith is to choose a life of community and of loving kindness. It is to fill my life with an openness, a wholeness, a peace, because I truly understand that all of humanity are my siblings and all are connected to me, and deserving of an example of my faith. To discriminate or oppress or see it as my place to judge would be an infringement on that faith and would be to take the Lord’s name in vain and use Him for purposes of hate, which He would never want. So I will love all. No matter their sins, which are not mine to judge. For while the ultimate reward may be in Heaven, the seeds are sewn here on Earth, and I can feel the presence of God when I choose to love another.
Dear God, if loving was easy you would not have had to die to show me how to do it. If the greatest sinner, who well may be me, were the only life on Earth you still would have given your life for them. When I look to others, may I see as much to love in them as you have been able to see in me. Fill my heart with pity and compassion that I may show all the divinity of a truly unconditional love.
*Megan Smith is editor for Reflections from the Pew