Pity

The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

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.

Mark 6:30-34

In this Sunday’s Gospel story, we see Jesus moved with pity. I tend to not be a huge fan of pity, in part because I think it can make the person who is feeling the pity superior in some way to the person being pitied. If it is an emotion that can lead to compassion and action, however, maybe it is not the worst emotion after all.  He did not feel pity and then turn and walk away.

What did Jesus do in response to his pity? How did he address the sheep without a shepherd? He taught them many things.

I am spending the month of July at an all girls high school in a slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Here, I can feel the importance of education. These girls understand that it is this degree, this knowledge, that will raise them and their families out of poverty. They are focused and determined. Public high school in Kenya is not free, and many of these girls do not have the school fees available for high school. KGSA, the school I am at, is a free school that gives these girls hope. Many are sheep without a shepherd. One girls is living alone because she left her family in rural Kenya for this educational opportunity. Another lives with an aunt since both of her parents passed away. But like Jesus, they understand that seeking out teachers, mentors and knowledge can change their lot in life.

It would be easy for me, walking through the garbage filled slum, hearing stories of girls being orphaned to parents with HIV or malaria, to pity them. And if that pity moved me to compassion and action, maybe it would be a productive emotion. In spending time with these focused, hard working young women, however, there has been no room for pity. As they talk about seeking knowledge and claiming their right to an education, I am left inspired. That inspiration moves me to work for more access to education for young people around the world.

We are seeing an educational crisis in the United States, too. Kids are dropping out, test scores are dropping. Universities are getting more and more expensive to attend. The Gospel is a good reminder to me of the power of teachers to combat pity and the power of having access to people who can teach us many things.

Can you remember a time when you have been moved to pity?

Did your pity inspire you toward compassion and action? How or how not?

Did you think you are receiving a good education? What do you plan to do with your education?

Photo courtesy of by Enzinho83 via Creative Commons License.

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