Two men sit in a bar. They’re good friends, like brothers. After a few drinks, one says to the other, “Tell me what hurts me.” The other replies, “How do I know what hurts you?” The first man replies, “If you do not know what hurts me, how can you be my best friend?”
Do you know what made Jesus so loving, the greatest lover in history? He knew what hurts us. He knew then, and He knows now. It shows up throughout his public life. Think of the woman caught up in adultery, in danger of being stoned. The Samaritan woman at the well; the sinful woman who touches Him. In each of these instances, Jesus had compassion.
Jesus showed compassion to all who reached out to Him: The sick, the hungry; a mother whose son was tormented by evil spirits; blind men sitting by the roadside; the leper begging to be made clean. To each of these people, the Lord’s heart was torn, and He reached out. Not because He was an all-knowing God, but because He was a human Man. He was attuned to all things human.
He says, “Blessed are you when people hate you.” He understands what hurts us.
How did He get this way? In large measure, by experiencing it. He didn’t discover poverty by reading the unemployment figures in a Jerusalem newspaper. He had no home. He told us He had nowhere to lay His head. No one had to explain what hunger felt like, because He went 40 days without food. He wept over the death of His friend, Lazarus. He didn’t hear about hatred from His disciples. His own townspeople tried to throw Him off a cliff.
And Jesus didn’t wait for the afflicted to come to Him. He reached out to where people were, and went looking for them. As St. Matthew says: “Jesus went about all their cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and curing every kind of disease and infirmity.” He showed compassion for everyone, everywhere He went.
If to be a Christian is to put on Christ, then to be a Christian is to clothe yourself in Christ’s compassion. For the most part, the world we live in is heavy with hurt. Some of it is obvious, but much of it is cooped up inside a person. Sometimes in those closest to us.
Once in a while, why not make a search for others who hurt? Not a door to door questionnaire. But the question: Tell me what hurts you. The search is more subtle; more Christ-like. Just ask God for increased sensitivity to others’ needs. Do not be put off by a foreboding face. We all look that way sometimes. Above all, listen and be present for others.
Because, for all its good times and quiet joys, human living can tear us apart. If you are living in despair or fear, or are going through a difficult time, turn to the Lord. Turn to the One who said, “Come to Me, you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” It is an invitation none of us should refuse.
Some years ago, there was a song that went, “God is watching us. God is watching us. God is watching us from a distance.” The music was emotionally moving, but not quite correct. God does not watch us suffer from some distant shore. He has joined Himself to our human situation.
Just listen to His words: “This is My body. This is My blood. Given for you.”