Spirit & Life

It is kindness that I want

Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
Jesus left that place, and as he walked along, he saw a tax collector, named Matthew, sitting in his office. He said to him, “Follow me.” Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having a meal in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and other outcasts came and joined Jesus and his disciples at the table.  Some Pharisees saw this and asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such people?” Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”
While Jesus was saying this, a Jewish official came to him, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died; but come and place your hands on her, and she will live.” So Jesus got up and followed him, and his disciples went along with him.
A woman who had suffered from severe bleeding for twelve years came up behind Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I touch his cloak, I will get well.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, my daughter! Your faith has made you well.” At that very moment the woman became well.
Then Jesus went into the official’s house. When he saw the musicians for the funeral and the people all stirred up, he said, “Get out, everybody! The little girl is not dead—she is only sleeping!” Then they all started making fun of him. But as soon as the people had been put out, Jesus went into the girl’s room and took hold of her hand, and she got up. The news about this spread all over that part of the country.

Invitation to gather. Unconditional regard. Space to listen, learn and question. Response, that also invites further wondering. Classic teaching and learning.
Not only did Jesus invite and befriend the least, the lost and the lonely, he also engaged in everyday life with responsive compassion and kindness, to help share the Truth and Wisdom of God. The Gospel of Matthew offers a ‘student/teacher’ movement throughout. It shares real life moments and scenarios, societal injustice, deep grief, that raises theological questions, then offers Jesus’ wise counsel and teaching. This reading reveals Jesus invitation/call to one of the least respected people. Shared hospitality demonstrates Jesus’ unconditional regard. He openly responds to theological and societal questions, yet allows individuals to wonder, ponder and choose to the Way to live.
The Gospel then unfolds scenarios which shows Jesus living out his responsive compassionate commitment to all people of God. The woman he was merely passing in the street would have been isolated from family, home and faith community, due to her bleeding. His kindly “Courage, my daughter” immediately brings the unnamed woman back to the very centre of society through his recognition, listening and response, but also gives her status and belonging as he places her in the centre of a ‘home’ as daughter. Jesus sidesteps the general societal expectations of funeral preparations by going directly to the little child, one of the ‘least’ in society at that time. He responded to the girl, the daughter, and compassionately took the ‘unclean’ child’s hand with healing kindness and love.
May we listen, learn and respond to God’s call.
May our love be genuine and our compassionate kindness ever-present.

Prayer – “It is kindness I want…”
Call to us again, Jesus!
For our sight is drawn away;
our ears listen but do not hear;
our actions are blocked by prejudice or limited by busy-ness;
and our heart is not always kindly.
You saw, heard, reached out, included and acted with kindness.

It is so easy to be task focused and miss those in need.
When we are comfortable, settled and in routine,
we relinquish the spontaneity and responsiveness
of your call to love our neighbour.

At the most broken moment of utter anguish,
You turn towards the least, lost and lonely,
and reach into the midst of the despair.
Your kindness is gentle.
Your listening is without judgement.
Your outstretched hand is open.
Your healing is energising.

Jesus, grow in us your living kindness…
Allow the silence of listening….

When all hope is lost in despair, and despondency is rife,
You bring new breath and light into the darkest of moments.
To those who are suffering and shamed,
You surround them in an accepting, warming embrace.
To the lost and alone,
You are present.
When people are grieving and bereft,
You hold them firmly.

Teach us your Ways, God of love.
Jesus, we hear your call, and wish to follow your Way of kindness. Amen

© Rev Anne Hewitt 07/06/2023
This reflection & prayers may be shared as long as the original writer is credited.

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