God’s incarnation as Christ was a miracle in many ways, but there’s one in particular we rarely think about. Through Christ God made Himself vulnerable to his own limitless empathy. After all those centuries of guiding his sheep via those earthly shepherds we call the prophets, God finally perfected all of their teachings by bringing their lessons down to earth and schooling us through them in-person.
In the process, Christ’s empathy for humanity grew. With every encounter he saw how pitiful we are. The empathy he gained has graced us in many ways. One of the most important was the contract with God that he wrote for us in the form of The Lord’s Prayer. That contract concludes with a clause that serves as a prayer within a prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” This clause was designed to be easily portable and accessible at a moment’s notice to guide us through the dangers of complete freedom (of association) and complete imprisonment (in selfishness).
From the beginning of time, God knew that the free will he gave us would make us vulnerable to false shepherds bent on guiding us out of his pasture. This Sunday’s first reading is Jeremiah (Jer 23:1-6), relaying an important message about that:
“Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.”
There have been false prophets among us in every age, laying down the law as they see it—either in direct service to themselves or to other disguised evils. In our second reading, Paul tells the Ephesians (Eph 2:13-18) how Christ delivers on the clause in Our Father’s contract:
He…”broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person…”
In the process of abolishing the enslaving legalisms designed to keep us under man’s control, Christ freed us through the law of his love—a law that even governed him. Our gospel reading demonstrates the limitless empathy God exercised through Christ. In fact it seems his empathy scaled along with the size of the flock he gathered. Our gospel reading (Mk 6:30-34) shows us that he had no control of it. At first his disciples are on the receiving end of it as they return from a hard day’s work.
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while,” he tells them.
It didn’t take long for that empathy to find a new channel, when he saw all those lost sheep looking for deliverance from evil.
“When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”
That empathy would expand even more while he hung from the cross and asked our Father to forgive us for our ignorance.
Today’s mass-media immediate-distraction culture feeds on our ignorance and pays us back with many more opportunities for enslavement and abandonment. For many of us this means solitary confinement. Imagine how sorry God must feel for us now. Let’s pray His Empathic Spirit breaks into our cells and delivers us from evil.