When he saw the multitudes, he felt sorry for them because they were downcast and depressed like sheep without a shepherd » Mt 9, 36.

This is not just an event, but a profound revelation. It is Matthew’s narrative amidst miracles. The masses encircle Lord Jesus. He heals and heals. His love extends in two directions. One reaches physical wounds, the other, less visible but equally perilous, spiritual anguish. My own fervor also requires two directions to embrace the world’s suffering. Word and deed. To teach and to heal. Or heal and teach. The sequence is often crucial. For the ‘healing of the body’ can be the precursor to the ‘healing of the soul ‘. Lord, let both arms of love grow in harmony and in proportion to the suffering I encounter, for the transformative power of compassion is boundless.

But in that crowd that swallowed the Savior, not only the sick were not suffering from bleeding. Only one’s daughter died. Two blind gods, one dumb. The vast majority of them were healthy on the outside. But Jesus’ gaze went deeper. He sees a “broken and scattered flock.” Everyone is looking. Everyone is tired. Everyone is wandering. A herd with no one to lead, no one to protect it, no one to sacrifice for it. And the Lord was seized with deep compassion. “He felt sorry for them…” And that compassion turned into tireless journeys and finally into the Way of the Cross and a redemptive death. Because a good shepherd “lays down even his life for his sheep.”

Fruitful compassion has never died out in the Church. Even Don Bosco saw the multitudes worn out and scattered. Crowds of abandoned boys were beginning to be swept away by the current of crime and destruction. Others saw it too. But with different eyes. They saw a bunch of suspicious, future criminals. Perhaps they themselves stood proudly in front of the altar: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not (I, nor my children!) like those’. Don Bosco did not succumb to indignation, but to compassion. ‘He felt sorry for them.’ From the first dream, he renounced the solution with his fists. Even his compassion turned into a life full of sacrifices and efforts. ‘I have promised God that till my last breath I will belong to my poor boys…’ His enduring compassion is a reassuring thread that connects us all in the Church.

Lord, give me a compassionate heart. And good seeing eyes and seeing deeper and further. I move among the multitudes of well-fed yet starving, modernly dressed and yet shamefully exposed, educated and unwise. I am asking you, let me not betray my place among the “worn and broken” so that I do not deviate from the path to the lost sheep so that I do not succumb to the temptation of an easier, more sympathetic, and outwardly more successful apostolate. Don Bosco showed me where to look. Let pity trouble me. Let compassion stretch out both arms of my love: word and deed. And where neither word nor deed can reach, prayer can—a prayer of living faith. If I won’t be able to touch you with either word or deed, I will help the “weary and broken” from afar by prayer.

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