He Had Compassion on Them

By: Father Francois Beyrouti
There is more to reading the Bible than we often assume. We sometimes hear a passage in Church and think that we know it because we heard it before. The Bible is so rich that even if we read or hear a passage 100 times there is always something new that we can learn.

For example, today’s Gospel is usually titled “The feeding of the five thousand.” Jesus does feed 5000 but we often overlook a very important element of this Gospel. “Why did Jesus feed the 5000?” Yes, Jesus fed 5000 because they were hungry. Yes, Jesus performed this miracle because the disciples told Him: “We have only five loaves here and two fish” (Matthew 14:17).

We focus on these two elements and sometimes focus on a third that Jesus prepared us for the Eucharist when he “looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds” (Matthew 14:19) or fourth that after “they all ate and were satisfied…they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14:20-21) These are all important elements of today’s Gospel but these do not fully answer the question: “Why did Jesus feed the 5000?”

Because of the nature of this amazing miracle we quickly overlook an important verse at the beginning of this story: “As Jesus went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). There is a very important phrase within this sentence: “he had compassion on them.” This is important as it helps us to balance this story and focus not only on the great miracle of multiplying fish and bread but on why it happened.

Yes, Jesus performed this miracle because the crowds were hungry. Yes, Jesus performed this miracle because they only had five loaves and two fish. Yes, Jesus performed this miracle to prepare us for the Eucharist. But prior to all these and at the heart of today’s Gospel is that Jesus had compassion.

Why is this word so important? The word ‘compassion’ means ‘to suffer with.’ Compassion is not an emotion of pity, sorrow, or condescension. True compassion means that we suffer with the one who is suffering. Sometimes we know people who have had difficult lives or we see people who live on the streets and pity or blame them for their misery. This is not compassion. Compassion is the grace to feel the pain of the one who is in pain and to feel the suffering of the one who is suffering. This is a grace because when we feel authentic compassion we also feel the urgency to help the other out of their suffering.

The word ‘compassion’ is a crucial word to understand the life of Jesus. One of the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus is that He will be the suffering servant. You can read the full passage in Isaiah 53, but I will only read a few verses: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. [5] But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

The Messiah as prophesied in the Old Testament would not only suffer with us but he would suffer for us. Therefore, when we read in today’s Gospel that Jesus had compassion on them, this does not mean that Jesus pitied them but that He was showing that He is the Messiah who is willing to suffer with them. Jesus was not eating a leg of lamb while the crowds were hungry. He was suffering with them. Then when Jesus performed the miracle He ate with them. Jesus therefore suffers with the crowds and then also rejoices with the crowds. Jesus felt their suffering in order to relieve it. This is why it is important for us to read the Bible slowly and carefully. The footnotes in a Catholic Bible also help us to see some of these connections.

That Jesus shows compassion throughout His life is an important element for us to focus on. This also helps us to understand that Jesus was not just a wise teacher or a miracle maker but that compassion was at the heart of everything He did and said during His life. The compassion of Jesus, that Jesus was ready to suffer with us during His life, helps us to understand why Jesus was willing to suffer for us with His death. Jesus did not look for suffering but was willing to suffer to show us how much He loves us. Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians: “Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:8-9). It is within this larger context that we need to understand today’s Gospel.

When we first hear this reading, we might think the greatest miracle is that Jesus fed 5000, but when we look at this Gospel a little deeper we realize that the greater miracle is that God loved us so much that He was willing to be with us and also to suffer with us and for us. This is how Jesus shows us His compassion.
Copyright © 2016 Father Francois Beyrouti, All rights reserved. 


World Youth Day Poland - US Maronite Pilgrims

Sr. Therese Maria is in Poland this week for the World Youth Day events.  Sister is part of our Maronite USA group of about 30 youth and adults.  Next week, Sister will offer a reflection on their experience at this blessed gathering with Pope Francis and over 2 million catholic youth from around the world.  


MYO National Workhop - LaTrobe PA

Sister Therese Maria assisted in and presented on the works of mercy at the 2016 National Maronite Youth Organization workshop directed by Fr. Gary George and his awesome team from July 16 to July 21 at Latrobe, PA. Bishop Gregory Mansour, Fr. Rudy, Fr. Bassam, Fr. Simone, Fr. Alex, Fr. Vince and a number of Seminarians were also present.  
In this Year of Mercy, the engaging theme was "God Quest". The beatitudes were used as a road map to help our energetic teens to grow closer to the ultimate treasure, Jesus our Lord and Savior. The dynamic week included prayer, interactive activities, sports, ice breakers, breakout discussions, Lectio Divina (which Sister led) confession, missions, daily Liturgy and a host of guest speakers. It truly was a blessed week of grace, healing, learning and transformation for all those who attended.


Reflection: NAM 2016 – San Francisco

By: Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh

The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light attended this year’s National Apostolate of Maronites (NAM) Convention in San Francisco, California from July 7th to July 10th, 2016.   We were blessed with the opportunity to meet and mingle with over 1,500 of our Maronite parishioners who attended from all over the US to meet and greet our Patriarch, his Eminence and Beatitude Cardinal Beshara Peter Rai. This is the second time in NAM Convention history that a Maronite Patriarch has blessed us with his presence.

On a personal note, my parents, Joseph and Wendy, and my brother, Peter, also came to the Convention all the way from Sydney, Australia.

We had a table in the exhibitors area where we met so many new (and not so new) people and were able to speak to them one on one. There were a number of highlights: we attended two Theologies on Tap. The first was held at the Exploratorium in Downtown San Francisco and was hosted by Fr. Tony Massad and  Sister Therese Maria. The second was held in the Atrium of the Hyatt Regency Hotel and was hosted by Fr. Guy Sarkis. We were able to listen to a number of talks on a wide variety of topics including “prayer and entrepreneurship” and the “four pillars of healthy living”.

We attended the Patriarch’s Panel Commission on the affairs of Lebanon in its current political and economic state, where we were able to listen to the many concerns and issues plaguing Lebanon at the moment.  Directly after the panel, the Patriarch filmed his weekly teaching on the Gospel on Telelumiere. His topic was the life of St. Charbel in honor of the saint’s feastday coming up on July 23.

Also, we were interviewed by Telelumiere and were asked about the foundation of our community, and what brings us to NAM each year.   We attended the evangelical concert of Lebanon’s Christian singer, Joumana Mdawar, who moved the audience to tears by her strong faith, radiant joy and sweet angelic voice.

At the conclusion of the Convention, we spent a day of sight-seeing in San Francisco with my family. We saw the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the Cable Car Musuem, the famous Lombard Street, the Victorian houses of old and even the house of “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

May God bless the efforts and work of all those involved in this year’s Convention. It was a great success. We look forward to attending next year in Greenville, South Carolina, God willing.  


July 4 with the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth

To celebrate Independence Day on Monday, July 4th, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light hosted a cook-out with the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth at the Mother of Light Convent in Dartmouth. The afternoon was filled with prayer and play, which began with Ramsho (Maronite Evening Prayer) and concluded with lawn games and basketball, and a dabke lesson.


Maronite Bible Camp 2016 - Fall River MA

By Sr Natalie Sayde Salameh

The LOL Club (Light of Life) began on June 27th with a week of learning about God’s merciful love in engaging video, crafts, bible sharing, games, prayer, choir practice, dabke rehearsal, and snacks. Sr. Therese Maria organized the program along the theme of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, “In the Footsteps of Mercy”, and focused on the specific ways that lead us to Jesus, who is the visible face of our Father’s mercy.
Day one centered on the ultimate gift of God’s mercy to us in our Baptism and our call to the Catholic Faith. Day two was on the chief means by which we communicate with God, prayer. Prayer brings us closer to God’s mercy, and awakens in us the need for his grace. Day three focused on the Mystery of Penance (Confession). Is there anything greater than experiencing His forgiveness? Indeed, many of the children on this day took the opportunity of going to confession. Day four focused on living the works of mercy as depicted in the life of soon-to-be St. Teresa of Calcutta.

LOL Club Maronite summer camp concluded July 1st with Divine Liturgy celebrated at St. Anthony of the Desert Maronite Church by Fr. James Doran and Fr. Fadi Rouhana, attended by LOL members, volunteers, and parents.

After today’s closing Liturgy, all those in attendance enjoyed a lunch, arcade games, bumper cars and boats at Grand Prix in Seekonk. The children enjoyed our time together, and it was great to hear that affirmed by the parents who mentioned to us that their kids were “having so much fun” and making so many new friends.