The Way to God

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark.

( Mark 8:31-38)

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


The Second Sunday of Lent.

If you have little children, then you will know about self-centeredness. They think the sun shines only for them, don’t they?

A six-year old boy was asked, “Are you in Linda’s room at school?” He said, “No, I’m not –  but she’s in my room.”

Most of us grow up  to realise the world doesn’t revolve around us. Apparently Teddy Roosevelt was one who didn’t.

One of  his children said about him, “ Father always wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.”

We are all a little self-centred if we were to admit it. I took part in an event once, and did quite a lot of work behind the scenes. At the evening’s end, the MC came out and thanked everyone by name    – and left me out.

I like to think that I am selfless. I like to think that anyone can call on me at any time – except my day off!!! – and I will be there, without thought of reward, or praise, or even thanks. But when that list of helpers was read off and my name was omitted, I felt pretty bad.

That was a lesson to me. It told me that I am not immune to the need for recognition.

We all want to be appreciated, don’t we?

But Jesus said, “If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.”

A person wanting to follow Jesus must say ‘no’ to themselves and ‘yes’ to Christ.

Doing stuff for people for the joy of doing it!

Not for the thanks!

No-one could ever accuse Jesus of sugar-coating what it means to be a disciple, could they?  These days, leaders check the polls to see what people are thinking, what people want them to do, before venturing anything. 

But great leaders  tell it like it is.

In the days of the Second World War, when Winston Churchill took over the leadership of Britain,  he didn’t offer tax breaks, increased funding for health care.  He offered ‘blood sweat and tears.’

That was it!

Garibaldi, the great Italian patriot, appealed for recruits to his cause this way:  “ I offer neither pay, nor quarters, nor provisions; I offer hunger and thirst, forced marches, battles and death. Let him who loves his country in his heart, and not with his lips only, follow me. All our efforts against superior forces have been unavailing. I have nothing to offer you but hunger, and thirst, hardship and death; but I call on all who love their country to join with me.”

Jesus, similarly,  never sought to attract followers by offering the easy way. He sought to challenge them, and to waken the sleeping chivalry in their souls, by the offer of the highest but the hardest way possible.

He didn’t come to make life easier for people, but to make them great! 

And he never asked anyone to do or face anything he was not prepared to face himself.

There was a time when Jesus had perhaps a hundred followers. If you remember he sent out seventy-two at one time to tour the surrounding villages to bring them the Good News. 

But eventually, he was left with the twelve, and a number of women who followed him.

And finally, when he hung on that cross, the women alone remained.

Virtually all his remaining followers would be tested, some unto death,  as they brought the Gospel to those in darkness.

Those who had been fishermen found greatness, not by being great  fishermen, but by bringing thousands of men and women to a knowledge of Jesus.

Instead of trying to save the life they had, they found new life serving him, and witnessing to others.

And they were glorified!

‘Whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, shall save it. What will you gain if you own the whole world, but destroy yourself?’

Here is a story of someone who owned all the world had to offer, and was very nearly destroyed; the story of the losing of a life and the finding of it.

A young woman named Marian, born in Hungary in 1913,  was raised in a castle with her aristocratic family, surrounded by maids, tutors, governesses, butlers and chauffeurs. Her grandmother, who lived with them insisted that whenever they traveled they would take their own sheets. She didn’t feel it right, that when staying in a hotel, they should sleep on sheets that the ‘common’ people had used.

While at school in Vienna, Marian met a handsome young Viennese doctor. They fell in love, eloped, and married when she was only eighteen. The marriage lasted only a year, and she returned to Vienna to begin life as an actress.

While auditioning for a play, she met the brilliant young German director Otto Preminger. They fell in love and married. They went to America soon afterward and he began his career as a movie director.

Unfortunately, Hollywood is the pre-eminent place for self-centredness,  as she wrote later.  It was about people biting, devouring and consuming one another. Marian was caught up in the glamour, the lights and superficial excitement and was drawn into living a sordid life.

When Otto found out he divorced her.

Marian returned to Europe to live the life of a socialite in Paris.

Then in 1948 she read in the newspaper that Albert Schweitzer, the world-famous organist and humanitarian, was making one of his periodic visits to Europe, and was staying at Gunsbach. She phoned his secretary and made an appointment to see him the next day.

She found him in the village church, playing the organ. She listened for a while, then went forward and turned the pages of his music. He invited her to have dinner at his house.

By the end of the day she knew she had discovered what she had been looking for all her life. When Schweitzer returned to Africa, she went with him to work in his hospital in Lamberene.

That is where Marian lost her old life and found new life.

The girl who was born  in a castle, and raised like a princess, who was accustomed to being waited on, with all the luxuries of a spoiled life, became a servant.

She changed bandages, bathed babies, fed lepers – and became free!

In her autobiography, All I Ever Wanted Was Everything , she said that she could not get the ‘everything’ that would satisfy, and give meaning, until she had learned to give everything.

When she died in 1979, the New York Times carried her obituary, which included this statement from her. “Albert Schweitzer said there are two classes of people in this  World – the helpers, and the non-helpers – I am a helper.”

God gave us life to spend, not to keep. If we live carefully, always thinking only of our own needs – profit, ease, comfort, security – if our sole aim is to make life as long and as trouble-free as possible, then we are losing our life all the time. 

But if we spend our life for others. If we forget health and time, and wealth and comfort in our desire to do something for Jesus, and for all those men and women and children for whom Jesus died, then we are gaining life all the time. 

Where would we be without the efforts of the doctors and scientists and inventors who were prepared to risk all to serve mankind – sometimes experimenting on their own bodies?

Where would we be if explorers, pioneers, ground-breakers, had all decided to stay at home in front of the fire?

What would happen if every mother refused the risk of bearing a child?

What would happen if everyone spent all they had on themselves, with no regard for others?

What would this world be like if Jesus had not given his life for it?

We gain life by using it, not by saving and hoarding it.

I admit  that is the way of weariness, and exhaustion – of giving to the utmost.

But it is surely better to burn out  than to rust out.

For that is the way to real happiness.

And the way to God.



The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.

He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

This is the Gospel of Christ


This is the first Sunday of Lent.

We talk about Lent being a time for self-examination and reflection, don’t we?

It’s kind of like taking your car in for a mid-winter check-up,

Let’s face it, the weather has been pretty bad, and the old car has been out in the snow and ice, and it’s not performing up to scratch.

Like our lives, at times.

We have gone through some ups and downs, some trials, some stress, and maybe we are not firing on all our cylinders.

So maybe a spiritual check-up wouldn’t be out of line.

I hope though, that your spiritual check-up doesn’t go the same as most of my automobile check-ups have gone.

You put your car in for the special that is advertised. Not a bad price, just to keep things running well – change the oil and filter, flush the radiator and refill it – check the belts and fluid levels – what could be simpler?

Until you go to pick up your car.

The service man looks at the worksheet from the shop, punches a number into the computer and it starts to print… and print… and print.

Either it is printing some student’s essay or you are getting one big bill – again.

There was a lot more wrong with the car than you thought.

The personal check up can be like that too.

Let me see now, I attend church on Sunday – well most Sundays – well at least once a month.  

Then I say grace at meals. Well, when the kids are there. You want to teach them to be thankful, don’t you? Then I try to read a bit from the scriptures each day, although it gets to be once a week, or even once a month, if I even open the bible at all.

And I try to be honest in everything, but…..come to think about it ….I haven’t really been straight up honest……and when I think about it, I did do a bit of backroom manipulation to get that job ahead of old Smitty – he’s too old to do it anyway…  and come to think about it, I haven’t really been open and honest with the wife  – not totally, that is….and it’s like when you pick up your car, isn’t it? 

It all begins to add up.

And you begin to wish you had never looked at it.

What the heck, it’s impossible to live a perfect life, so why bother?

I used to think, when I was a callow youth, that the churches made up rules that were impossible to keep, so you could never  feel perfect.

Let’s face it, if you were perfect you wouldn’t need to come to church, would you now?

There was method in their madness. 

Well I’ve grown a lot since then, and I know that no human being can live a perfect life.

Except the man Jesus. We are told that there was no sin in him. He was perfect.  But he was a man, and Satan figured it was worth  a try. 

So the Son of God was tempted, as we are.

The Gospel of Mark doesn’t spell out how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, but the other gospels do.

He was offered the kingdoms of earth.

How did he manage to resist that one. Human beings have killed and maimed, and died because men have dreamt of ruling the world.

How is it that when people sucked up to him it didn’t turn his head?

How is it that when people said wonderful things about him, he didn’t use the power that he had, to set himself up as a king or something.

How is it that when people condemned him, he didn’t falter?

How is it that minutes before he died, hanging on that cross, he asked his Father to forgive those who had done that to him?  

Because who he was, was not dictated by power, or by wealth, or by reputation. No. He knew who he was.  When he was baptised, in the River Jordan, God told him,” You are my beloved.”

That is how Jesus defined himself – as the beloved of God. That is who he was and he would let nothing take that from him.

When he rode into Jerusalem, he was greeted  by adoring crowds.

He could easily have seen himself as a king. He could have led them in a crusade against the Romans.

He didn’t because he knew who he was.

Days later, people began to conspire against him. To besmirch his reputation.

He wasn’t being called a king now. He was being called a threat to the peace, a rabble-rouser.

How is it that this didn’t destroy his sense of well-being?

He knew who he was.

Soon, the crowds, egged on by those who conspired against Jesus, called for his death.

Surely this must have shaken him?

No, he knew who he was. Beloved of God.

In our own baptism, and in our own surrender to him as Lord, we are acknowledged as  beloved of God, We are God’s children, his sons and daughters. 

There are acronyms, printed on bracelets, and tee shirts, and bumper stickers.  One is WWJD. It used to mean, “What would Jesus do?” Nowadays, it also means, “What would Jesus drive?”   It is meant to draw our attention to what SUV’s are doing to the environment. 

I can give you another. WWA BOGD.

What Would A Beloved Of God Do?

See, I think Lent is a time to reflect on our relationship to God, and to  be defined by that, as Jesus was, and let that relationship direct what we do.

Should you cut out chocolate for Lent?

W  W A B O G D

I think a beloved of God would do everything in his or her power to maintain a fit body, so as to be able to serve God better. If that means resisting the temptation to eat harmful foods, or overeat, then so be it.

If we define our selves as beloved of God, as Jesus did, then questions such as that are academic.

It becomes merely a question of what a beloved of God would do doesn’t it?

I tell you, that covers everything.  And everybody!

I read a story some time ago that said football great Bubba Smith had sworn off booze.

Not drinking it!

Selling it! 

Bubba never did drink, but he sold a ton of beer by making cute television ads. Not anymore. Bubba kicked the habit.

He said, “I loved doing the commercials, but I didn’t like the effect it was having on a lot of little people. I’m talking about people in school. Kids would come up to me on the street and recite lines from my commercials. Verbatim. They knew the lines better than I did.

“It was scary. Kids start to listen to things you say –  you ought to  tell ’em something that is the truth.

“Doing those commercials, it’s like telling everybody in school,’ Hey it’s cool to have a Lite beer.’   I’d go to places like Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale, on spring breaks, (as a spokesman for the brewery)  and it was scary to see how drunk those kids were. It was fun talking to the fans, until you see people lying on the beach because they can’t make it back to their rooms – or tearing up the city.

“As the years go by you stop compromising your principles.”

It seems like Bubba Smith had a spiritual check-up and saw something that needed fixing.  

Things come up, don’t they? Temptations. Maybe not to make very lucrative beer commercials, but things come up that are tempting.

Maybe asking the question, “What would a beloved of God do?” would guide us in making decisions about such issues, such temptations.

And God said to Jesus, “You are my beloved and I am pleased with you.”

As imperfect as we are, God could be could be saying that to you and me.

Couldn’t He?


Clay Jars

A Reading from 2 Corinthians 4:5-12

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness ,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you..

Clay jars, with treasure within

I read a book some time ago, about a young man, a sports writer and broadcaster who took to visiting his old professor who was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. *

The professor had to endure the illness, and the gradual loss of his independence.

The young man felt compelled to spend time with the old man – he didn’t know why.

Most times the old man handled everything well. Other times, not so well. Ted Koppel interviewed him for a television program, and Ted asked him what was his greatest fear.

He said he dreaded the day when someone else would have to wipe his bottom.

As the young man and his old prof talked each week – they met every Tuesday – the young man’s world view began to change. He had fame, money, success – he had everything that he thought mattered.

But he found out that the old man, who was losing everything, had something that he didn’t have. He knew what really mattered in life.

Once, when the old man asked him to move him on the bed, the young man was struck by the frailty of the old man’s body. It was a shell of what it had once been. It was slowly being consumed by the disease.

But the disease had not been able to consume his spirit. That shell of a body still held something precious.

Paul has this notion of us being ‘treasure in clay jars.’

God takes us, as flawed as we are and places within us something that when we are challenged, or when we face hard times, strengthens us – more than that – it empowers us -to do wonderful things.

I am sure you have admired someone going through a really bad patch, and doing amazingly well, and you thought, “Oh I could never handle that the way she has.”

What you were seeing was how the treasure that God placed within us, empowered her.

Do you know that many of those who have achieved great things in history had to overcome some sort of handicap?

There is a notion that great people are somehow possessed of something that you or I don’t have. They used to call it Royal Jelly. Not!

Or sometimes we shrug off their achievements by saying, ‘Well they probably had it easy – good parents, good school, etc.’ Not.!

Some of the world’s greatest men and women came from humble homes, and in addition, were saddled with disabilities which had to be overcome on their way to greatness.

Raise him in abject poverty and you have an Abraham Lincoln.

Strike him down with polio and he becomes Franklin D. Roosevelt. Burn him so severely in a schoolhouse fire that the doctors say he will never walk again and you have a Glen Cunningham, who set a world’s record in 1934 for running a mile in four minutes 6.7 seconds.

Take away his leg and you have a Terry Fox. A young man who ran across Canada and still inspires others even today.

Deafen a genius composer and you have a Ludvig van Beethoven. Have her born black in a society filled with racial discrimination, and you have a Harriet Tubman.

Call him a slow learner, “retarded”, and write him off as uneducable, and you have an Albert Einstein.

Treasures in clay jars.

Paul tells of being afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; struck down but not destroyed. And he gives as his secret, that he always carries in his heart the death of Jesus. That in His suffering Jesus redeemed us. In His death, he gives us life.

Paul says the joy of knowing Christ cannot be separated from the suffering of Christ.

And presumably that we know Christ better when we suffer.

And that idea has been a part of Catholic belief for centuries, one manifestation of which has been the act of ‘Self-flagellation.
Self-flagellation is the disciplinary and devotional practice of flogging oneself with whips or other instruments that inflict pain. In Catholicism, self-flagellation is practiced in the context of the doctrine of the mortification of the flesh and is seen as a spiritual discipline. It is often used as a form of penance and is intended to allow the flagellant to share in the sufferings of Jesus,

I think that sort of thinking might be out of fashion, today.

Suffering is not something we welcome.

We don’t think we should have to suffer.

Pain elimination is a medical science in itself.

But no-one goes through life without experiencing some hardship. Some suffering.

We all will experience hardship, and we all, at some time, will be challenged.

But we are called ‘people of faith’ and as such we should have faith.

Now faith isn’t some blind belief that God will do whatever we want Him to do.

If that is what our faith is, then we are going to be disappointed.

For Paul faith in God is a sure feeling, that whatever happens, for a believing Christian, it is never more than we can handle.

For Paul, faith in God is a sure feeling that whatever we are challenged to do, we can accomplish it in Christ.

He points out that we may feel trapped at times but we are not hemmed in.

We may be persecuted by other people, but we are never abandoned by God.

Joan of Arc, when those who should have stood by her, ran away, said, “It is better to be alone with God. His friendship will never fail me.”

They who have never struggled, have never had to fight for anything, have not experienced the strength that God can give.

When everything is so dark, and God seems so far away, and it seems as if nothing can save us – that is the time when our faith must be strongest.

Because at the end it is all we have.

Sweeping across Germany at the end of World War 2, Allied forces searched farms and houses looking for snipers. At one abandoned house, really just a heap of rubble, searchers with flashlights found their way to the basement. There on the crumbling wall, a victim of the Holocaust had scratched a Star of David, and beneath it, in rough lettering, the message:

 I believe in the sun  - even when it does not shine.
     I believe  in love - even when it is not shown.
 I believe in God - even when He does not speak. 

At the end it is all we have.

Isn’t it?

Paul faced many hardships. He spoke out courageously. He endured everything that happened to him because he believed that even if death took him, then God would raise him up.

We also face hardships. We also need to speak out courageously. And know that whatever happens to us, whatever challenges us, God will help us endure, and in the end will raise us up.

The great Boulder Dam scheme in America brought fertility to vast areas which had once been desert. In the building of the dam, some men inevitably lost their lives.

When the dam was completed a tablet was let into the wall of the dam bearing the names of the workmen who had died.

It said, “These died so that the desert might bloom and rejoice.”

Those men didn’t see what they were doing, that way. They were just glad to have the job. But nevertheless, what they did, and their deaths, did in fact contribute to making the desert bloom and rejoice.

In our life’s journey, we will experience love and loss, joy and sorrow, failure and success. But even as we travel that journey, and even as we struggle, somehow, God helps us help others?

Doesn’t He!

And we become “Clay jars, with treasure within !”


  • Tuesdays with Morrie: Mitch Albom, Broadway Books.

You Should Have Been There.

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark.

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.

He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.

And the whole city was gathered around the door.

And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

And Simon and his companions hunted for him.

When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”

He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”

And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

(Mark 1:29-39)

You Should Have Been There.

This is Vestry season, isn’t it.  It is the time in the church, when we  look back on the past year, to recognise what has gone well,  and to look forward, and to plan for the coming year.

Outside of church, of course, the main event of 2020 and possibly of 2021 has been Covid 19. Many people have been ill  and recovered, others  have recovered, but with residual effects that may last a lifetime, and many have died.

There have been other tragedies, of course. Hundreds of children have been held at the border in the United States, separated from their parents some time ago, and with little hope, now,  of ever being re-connected with them.

Wars persist in remote places, and perhaps most tragically in the Yemen.

The extent of tragedies, the number of them, the sheer horror of them, is such that we despair at the little we can do.  

We do what we can, don’t we,  taking care of our families, being there for our friends, helping out where we can in our community and donating to the causes that touch our hearts?

We look at the world and wish we could do more, even though the world’s problems are so big and worrisome, that all we can do is donate to support those who are trying to help, and pray for God’s care for those affected.

When I was a little boy, listening to the stories of Jesus, it always puzzled me that Jesus just didn’t heal everyone in town and then go on to the next and heal everyone there, and so on.  I also used to feel sorry for those who missed the chance to be healed. Maybe they were away, visiting friends, or something, when Jesus went through, their neighbors telling them, “Oh you should have been there. He healed everyone!”  

Then there were those who waited on the edge of the crowd, unable to push through, and finally had to leave without getting near to Jesus.  

But there would be others who would  be healed, and others who somehow found  a way to bring a sick friend to Jesus. 

Do you remember the story of the friends of one sick man, who got onto the housetop and hacked a hole in the roof, and lowered their friend inside the house so that Jesus might heal him?

When there was so much illness, and when medicine was undeveloped, and when being sick could be such an economic tragedy, it was hard for me,  as a child to understand that Jesus could move on to the next town, and leave behind so many people still to be healed.

Healing was an important part of the ministry of Jesus. The gospel writers want us to know about it because it proves that God was indeed working in this man. That in him, God did suspend natural laws and bring about miraculous events.

But Jesus’ ministry only lasted about three years, and he was here to do something much greater than the physical healings that he wrought, as wonderful as they were.  He had to touch as many people as possible in that time in a different way.

He had to bring the Good News to as many people as he could.

He had to set the world alight, and the image comes to mind of someone running through fields of dry grass, touching here and there with a lighted torch.

But he had very little time.

His ministry would include healing the sick, but a bigger challenge was to heal souls, so that those healed souls, could carry the Good News of love and healing throughout the world, and heal other souls.

He needed help because he was limited in what he could do as a man.

Mostly, in our prayers, we pray for people to be healed, of sicknesses, or other conditions, don’t we?  The things that we can see, that need fixing. We rarely, if ever, pray for someone’s soul.

But what good does it do for someone to have a healthy body, or mind,  and yet an unhealthy soul?

We use these bodies for seventy years, give or take a few, but our soul will live for eternity.

I am reminded of an account of a miraculous healing I heard about some years ago.

One of the members of a small church,  a youngish woman, confided to her prayer group  that her husband, who was not a member of the church, had been told he had a killer illness and only a few weeks to live.

The group gathered together and prayed for this man. They prayed that he might be healed of his illness.  

Soon, the sick man asked for a group from the church to visit him and pray over him at home, and to take communion to him.

This they did.

He asked them to come back again, and he told them of something that had happened to him.  He said he was conscious of being enveloped in a sense of peace, and a feeling of well-being. He was surprised at this himself, since he thought that given the circumstances, he should be feeling angry, and anxious, and panicky.

His wife said that he had become more open  – made himself more vulnerable, if you like – and that they were experiencing a deeper love for each other than they ever had before.

When he was able, he would attend church. He became a part of the church family. People noticed that in this man, someone who only attended church sporadically, there was something that exemplified what a spirit-filled Christian should be.

He impressed them with the fact that he had become a man at peace – with himself, with the world, and with God.

God had answered the prayers of his wife and friends, and this man had been made whole in a very wonderful way. 

And  after three months, when he died,  it was as if a light had been quenched.

His friends knew that although the illness had persisted, there was no doubt that this man had been healed.  Healed of a sickness that no-one could have seen!

A sickness of the soul.

And perhaps that is the bigger miracle.

As Jesus asked the Pharisees when they accused him of forgiving sins –  something they said, that only God could do –  ” Which is easier, to heal someone, or to say your sins are forgiven?”

To give freedom to people formerly enslaved to sin and worry and guilt, is obviously the bigger challenge, when you think about it.

It is often said that Jesus had compassion for the sick.

I think it was more that that he empathized with them.

Empathy, is defined as, ” An understanding so intimate, that the feelings, thoughts, motives of one, are readily comprehended by another.”

When you sympathise with someone, you express your compassion for them; when you empathise with someone, you share their pain.

And if someone shares your burden, it is lightened, isn’t it? ?

Jesus must have empathized with those he saw.  He must have been very close to them at that moment.  And since sickness of mind or body or of soul, cannot exist in close proximity to God, then perhaps the root cause of their illness could be rejected and healing could naturally take place. 

Paul talks about empathy in a slightly different context, as he tells us how he shares  the Gospel with people.  He talks about being as one with people, empathizing with them, so that he could bring them the Gospel.  

And Paul shows that everything works better when we are in solidarity with Jesus.  We become a part of the process of the healing of the world.

The people of the time saw Jesus primarily as a healer. Not too many of them, not even the disciples at first, saw him as he really was, the Messiah, the One who would suffer and die on a cross, the Messiah sent to heal the rift between us and God.

Jesus came to empathise with us – to be so close to us that our feelings, our very thoughts, and our very needs, are known to him.

And when that takes place, he is able to answer those needs, and  to bring about a healthy inner person.

As we move through Epiphany, and as we ponder the works he did, let us ask that in His love for us, in His compassion for us, in His empathy with us, He might do those works in us, healing us and making us complete, so that we may better serve Him in this His Kingdom on earth.

” How good it is to sing praises to our God,  who heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”