“Let my sighs and desolations upon this earth move You to pity.” (IC 3,21,3) | “At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36)

|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXI: ”How We are to Rest in God above All Goods and Gifts” (second entry)

What “sighs and desolations”? Kempis explains in the lead up to this exclamation: “I encounter many evils which…disturb…afflict…cast a cloud…hinder…distract…allure.” Kempis often appeals to the Lord for relief from the challenges and temptations of this earthly life. What else can a disciple do but ask for Christ’s pity for we who wish to be close to Him but encounter so many obstacles in this life to this worthy desire.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 9:32-38

Today’s excerpt begins with Jesus performing an exorcism that amazes the crowd but causes the Pharisees to accuse Him of being in league with the devil. It goes on to tell of Jesus visiting towns and villages, preaching and healing. In His ministry, the Lord notes the sad disposition of the people who gather around Him (see the headline). This leads Him to tell the disciples to pray for more help in tending to this pitiful flock.

|Reflection

“Sighs and desolations,” spoken and unspoken, conscious and unconscious, must have been the state of so many of the folks who clamored around Jesus. Their pathetic leadership in the religious realm is highlighted directly in today’s Gospel passage (the people were “troubled and abandoned” by these accusers of Jesus). What sort of guidance could they expect to get from these corrupt and worldly men? Is it any wonder that Jesus was such a popular figure? He spoke with authority. He healed widely and indiscriminately as regards to ethnicity. He exorcised demons with a word or a gesture. He forgave sins — even the most grievous) of the repentant (how glorious to hear the words straight from the mouth of the God-Man!).

Lest we think that these encounters with Christ and the blessings provided be the province of those who walked the earth with Him, know that all these benefits can be ours today. We have Jesus words in Scripture and in the official teaching of His Church (read the Bible and the Catechism!). He wants to heal us in mind, body, and spirit (just ask!). Those demons that afflict us — temptations, habitual sins, addictions — are right up His alley (pray for the grace to overcome and have frequent recourse to the sacraments!). And forgiveness? Well, the God whose name is Mercy, forever waits for the prodigal son, the lost sheep, to return (go to Confession!).

We are pitiful. But the Lord of the harvest, the Good Shepherd, is always ready to lead us home.

Sheep Without a Shepherd – The Publicans

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