Today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 15:29-37) is a powerful story of Jesus healing people one after the other. Scripture tells us that Jesus simply went up a mountain and sat down. That’s all he did. No indication that he set out to change the lives of the community and individuals forever. He just went up a mountain and sat down. No doubt word of Jesus’ presence and deeds had been spreading. He had just healed a young girl because of her mother’s faith. Whether for curiosity or suspicion or desire for healing, the people of the area through which Jesus was traveling (the Sea of Galilee) went to find Jesus.

CompassionMaybe Jesus was taking a break up on that mountain. Maybe he wanted some quiet time for prayer or a chance to be with his disciples alone. Maybe he sensed the needs and desires of the people and hoped they’d come out of their familiar setting into the mountain wildness, a place known for encounters with God.

Regardless of what Jesus may have had in mind, there he sat, and the people came to him.

The more Jesus heals, the more the crowd comes. First a person who was blind, then someone who could not speak, and another who could not walk. I imagine it was an exhilarating though exhausting day for Jesus and the disciples. And not just one day — Jesus tells us that this went on for three days.

So why did Jesus do this? Why did he take three days out of his traveling, out of his retreat time, out of whatever schedule he had in order to tend to the people?

Compassion.

Jesus said, “I have compassion for the crowd.” He said this as he gathered his disciples together to figure out how to feed the crowd who was rather hungry after three days with no food.

“I have compassion,” said Jesus.

Compassion is the ability to feel deeply for another person, a consciousness of how another is feeling and a desire to reach out. For Jesus, this was not some whimsical understanding of compassion or a “touchy-feeling” kind of thing. Jesus practiced this way of being in the world, this compassion, both with people it was “easy” to give compassion to, and people who weren’t so easy, like those who persecuted him.

As the dawn of Advent continues to break upon us, may the spirit of Jesus enliven all that we do and all that we are, that we might be a people of compassion and find ways each day to live this compassion of Jesus.