How to Be Moved with Compassion

August 12, 2021   Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Lectionary: 416)

Reading I   Jos 3:7-10a, 11, 13-17
The LORD said to Joshua,
“Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel,
that they may know I am with you, as I was with Moses.
Now command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant
to come to a halt in the Jordan
when you reach the edge of the waters.”

So Joshua said to the children of Israel,
“Come here and listen to the words of the LORD, your God.
This is how you will know that there is a living God in your midst,
who at your approach will dispossess the Canaanites.
The ark of the covenant of the LORD of the whole earth
will precede you into the Jordan.
When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the LORD,
the Lord of the whole earth,
touch the water of the Jordan, it will cease to flow;
for the water flowing down from upstream will halt in a solid bank.”

The people struck their tents to cross the Jordan,
with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant ahead of them.
No sooner had these priestly bearers of the ark
waded into the waters at the edge of the Jordan,
which overflows all its banks
during the entire season of the harvest,
than the waters flowing from upstream halted,
backing up in a solid mass for a very great distance indeed,
from Adam, a city in the direction of Zarethan;
while those flowing downstream toward the Salt Sea of the Arabah
disappeared entirely.
Thus the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
While all Israel crossed over on dry ground,
the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD
remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan
until the whole nation had completed the passage.

Responsorial Psalm   114:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. Alleluia!
When Israel came forth from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of alien tongue,
Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel his domain.
R. Alleluia!
The sea beheld and fled;
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
the hills like the lambs of the flock.
R. Alleluia!
Why is it, O sea, that you flee?
O Jordan, that you turn back?
You mountains, that you skip like rams?
You hills, like the lambs of the flock?
R. Alleluia!

Alleluia   Ps 119:135
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let your countenance shine upon your servant
and teach me your statutes.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   Mt 18:21–19:1
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed,
and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

By Sadie Curtin 

As I was reading today’s Gospel - a profound parable and message of forgiveness - I was particularly touched by one phrase: “moved with compassion.”  One of the ways I like to pray is through a form of lectio divina in which I read and embrace the words that jump out at me. 

When I read a piece of scripture, I find that there is typically a word or phrase that hits my heart for one reason or another.  A teacher of mine in graduate school once suggested to me that when this happens, perhaps God is trying to speak to you; a lesson I have never forgotten. 

So, I ask myself, what is God communicating to me in the words “moved with compassion?”

In the last few weeks, I have been exposed to some pretty tragic stories of people that I know from a distance; from social media, from my parish community, or friends of friends.  I have heard stories of stillbirths, unexpected teen death, and health scares.  When I hear these stories, I have found that my heart swells and breaks a bit.  I feel so heavy and sometimes even brought to tears. 

I have been paying attention to my body when I learn of the pain of others because it has become so evident to me that the burdens of others cause a visceral reaction within me.  Now, I recognize that this is not a unique quality or gift that I possess, but rather a human response to pain and suffering.  When others hurt, I hurt.  I am moved with compassion. I am moved with compassion because God created me, and all human beings, to care for others.

As I think about this reality, I am astounded by its beauty. 

As I think about it, I am just bursting with gratitude that God calls each of us to have deep compassion for one another.  In my circumstances lately, it has been compassion for people from afar, but I know that in the future this will be closer to home for me.  When it is, I am sure the pain, hurt, suffering will be immensely harder.  I am so comforted knowing that when suffering is in my life that others, by nature of their humanity, will be moved with compassion for me. 

I truly believe that this reciprocal cycle of care, concern, and compassionate love is essential to getting through life.  I pray that I will always be moved with compassion for things great and small.

I also pray that others will also be moved in such a way. 

For it is in the compassion that I can extend the love of God, even if it is through a simple prayer; and it is in the compassion that I can receive the love of God when I need it most.  

It is my prayer today that all those who are suffering - publicly or privately - will know that hearts are moved with compassion for the burdens being carried. Mine surely is.  


Sadie Curtin is a high school theology teacher who finds herself most invigorated by LGBTQIA+ equity, racism, and the profound beauty of world religions. She finds joy in taking long walks with friends, reading a thought-provoking memoir, and trying to find the best pizza in Cleveland. She loves to dive deep into issues of social justice and would love to engage in conversation with you! Find more about her here.

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