Sixth Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Marc.8.v.1 Friday Meditation
GOSPEL Mark 8:1-9
In those days again, when there was great multitude and they had nothing to eat; calling his disciples together, he saith to them: "I have compassion on the multitude, for behold they have now been with me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I shall send them away fasting to their home, they will faint in the way: for some of them came from afar off." And his disciples answered him: "From whence can any one fill them here with bread in the wilderness?" And he asked them: "How many loaves have ye?" Who said: "Seven." And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground. And taking the seven loaves, giving thanks, he broke and gave to his disciples for to set before them. And they set them before the people. And they had a few little fishes: and he blessed them and commanded them to be set before them. And they did eat and were filled: and they took up that which was left of the fragments, seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand. And he sent them away.
The Prophet Esay after he had reproved the people of Israel, for their manifold sins and ingratitude unto God, re comforted them again in these words: Be ye washed, be ye clean, take away all the evil of your cogitations from my eyes, saith the Lord; rest from doing perversely, seek judgement, help the oppressed, judge for the orphan, defend the widow, & come and challenge me; and if your sins be as red as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow, and if they be as red as vermilion, they shall be as white as wool.
The like words of earnest, and pathetically protestation, and warrantize of reward for good works, is not, I take it, in all the Scripture again, and for no other in particular but works of mercy,to wit, for doing judgement or justice, meaning to the poor, & weaker party, for helping the oppressed, judging for orphans,defending widows, whereby the Prophet Esay sheweth how much God is pleased with the works of mercy above all other works, as his mercy above all other works, as his mercy towards us is above all his other works: and here Christ did show it egregiously, not only in relieving them with bread that had followed him fasting so long that they were ready to faint,but doing it out of very true compassion, and tenderness of heart, which is the true manner of doing works of mercy, and increased the merit of it very much, and therefore he sayth here (I pity) that is to say, I have an inward pity, and compassion of heart, over this multitude, and do suffer with them, for that they having fasted three days, have not what to eat.
For the Latin word misereor, which Christ used, according to the Etymology or composition thereof, (it being a compound word) is compounded of these two words, miserum, and cor, a heart made miserable, through grief, in the behalf of another mans misery, which grief if we once have it will urge us to relieve another mans distress as our own if we were able: so sayth St. Augustine giving the definition of pity or mercy, Pity, sayth he, is a compassion of another mans misery in our heart, whereby we are compelled to help him if we be able, and so much the sooner we shall have it, if we behold,and view their distress with our own eyes: & therefore Christ here, Beheld the multitude, first and then said, I pity them, as if his pity and compassion had proceeded from his beholding eye, whereof yet he no need, being of infinite compassion in himself, & knowing all miseries without seeing them; but he beheld the multitude, and beholding them, seemed to be moved thereby, as we are, to teach us, that if we would obtain the virtue of compassion, we must not shun the light of them that be in misery and distress, and get our selves (as some hard-hearted people will) away from them, but seek to see them, & talk with them, to know their miserable case, and inquire by others how it is with them, and not neglect them til they come themselves, they being oftentimes ashamed and confounded to come and show their own miseries, & will suffer to to much before they will do it.
And to teach us this, Christ did not here tarry till the people came to him and made their moan, but prevented them, looking upon them before ever they spake a word; and therefore it is a goodly custom in Catholic countries, which people use & those of the best rank, Hospitals, and the like, not only to relieve their wants, but to behold their miseries, and help them with their own hands, even in the basest and lowest offices of all (though there want not other to attend them) that they may thereby procure to themselves the rich virtue of compassion,and tenderness of heart over other mens miseries.and distresses, which who so hath obtained, and doth the works of mercy (as we cannot but do them, if we have true compassion indeed) we have before out of the Prophet Esay, how firmly god doth bind himself to bless them, & likewise amongst other places of Scripture we may consider how much St.James attributed to mercy, telling us, That they that show mercy to others, shall be sure to find mercy at the hands of God, & they that do not, shall have judgement without mercy.
It is not said of other sins,that we shall have judgment for them without mercy, but only for not showing mercy, for the mercy of God is above all his works; our not doing the works of mercy is it that only dryeth up the fountain of Gods mercy.
Oh how foolish and unmerciful then are they to themselves, that do not exercise the works of mercy to others, but like sponges do easily take in any thing & keep it to themselves, but let it not out & distribute it to the poor without much wringing, and squeezing by exhortation, persuasion, terrification, & the like, and oftentimes not so neither in their life time, till after their death, being like those little close earthen boxes, to put money in, collected for the poor or otherwise, with a little clink only in one side to put it in, but cannot be gotten out again with all the rattling and turning we can, til it be broken, and then in breaking it, the money flieth about and is spilt on the ground: So some hard hearted,and merciless people, are only earthen boxes, to keep money in; I say (earthen) because they are earthly, and will not let it go out to any good uses, till they be broken by death, and then their money flyeth abroad where it doth them no good, but oftentimes much harm, which if they had distributed well in their life time, would have done them much good,and therefore may rightly be said to be spilt on the ground.