Compassion and the Cry of the Poor: A Maryknoll Reflection
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sunday, March 26, 2023
Ez 37:12-14 | Rom 8:8-11 | Jn 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

The Gospel reading for this Sunday is laden with matters of resurrection. Within Lent, it is a story that foreshadows what we will celebrate in two weeks. In two weeks, the Resurrection will make it a joyful moment. All this makes the sadness of the readings starker.

Jesus says to his disciples that Lazarus is only sleeping. He delays his visit by two days fully anticipating the need for his miracle. He tells his disciples they will be lucky to witness it. But the moment Jesus meets with Mary and Martha, he weeps nonetheless.

To follow Jesus as a Maryknoll missioner can be similarly intense. Maryknoll Father James Kroeger wrote about the swell of emotions he felt when he saw a poor, young mother holding her baby while selling snacks outside of a train station in the Philippines:

“What will become of this little child?’ I thought as I stared at the scene before me. ‘How many days before the baby will be sick, due to breathing this awful air and living in such conditions?’ I was sweating in the few seconds it took me to walk through the underpass, but the mother and baby would be there all day! O, poor baby, what future do you have? Loving mother, I admire your sacrifice to earn something for your newborn. May your sweet baby somehow be saved from sickness and premature death!”

Father Kroeger looks to Jesus for guidance and says, “Because Jesus is the compassion of God in person, he becomes totally approachable by those who suffer. In fact, the letter to the Hebrews advises: ‘Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ Such a profound awareness of the depth of the loving compassion of our God should radically transform us. It will also challenge us to reach out to the needy with Jesus’ compassion.”

“Christian mission has a multitude of faces,” Father Kroeger says, “building peace, promoting ecology, fostering justice, encouraging reconciliation, respecting human rights, caring for orphans and victims of war. However, at the heart of mission is always the compassion of God, personally experienced and then generously shared.”

“I have never forgotten my experience of the suffering of that young mother and her newborn, Father Kroeger says. “We constantly seek to transform our heart-rending experiences into committed action and compassionate service of those who suffer in our peace-starved world.”

Questions for reflection
Where and when do you experience compassion most acutely?
What does that compassion call you to do?

Today Jesus Wept
Watching a mother die
From the bullet of poverty
That stole her right
To give birth in safety
How could we yet again
Let a mother die giving life
As armies thrive taking life?
Today Jesus wept
Listening to John confess
The rape of five-year-old Joyce
Not his first, but third count
Violating grandma, teenager, child
How could we yet again
Allow Impunity to blossom
As we rip off bodies, souls, and spirits?
Today Jesus wept
Watching the bomb explode
Trees, insects, animals, human limbs
All scattered away, turned to ashes
Skies and waters choked with smoke
How could we yet again
Divert resources to end malaria, TB, AIDS
As we wreak nuclear havoc on planet Earth?

– Jackie Ogega’s reflection on “Jesus wept”

Consider ways to phase out fossil fuels from your life. Natural gas, oil, and coal are fossil fuels used daily to provide energy. They are non-renewable energy sources and produce greenhouse gas emissions.
Lower your thermostat a few degrees if your furnace uses carbon fuel.

Find out how much of your electrical grid is powered by coal, natural gas, or oil. Plan your electrical consumption accordingly.

Explore the resources compiled by the Maryknoll Affiliates group at The comprehensive resources include worksheets, visual slides, and guides on all the goals of the Laudato Si’ encyclical. Tips on energy use, water use, and cooking are among the educational resources. They are worth exploring year-round.

This reflection was published in the 2023 Lenten Reflection Guide: Inspired by Laudato Si’ from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

Featured image: A photo shows the sunset in Thailand. Jesus’ compassion is revealed in the Mass readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent and brought to light by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns’ Lenten Reflection Guide: Inspired by Laudato Si’. (Nattipat Vesvar, Unsplash/Thailand).

Magazine Past Issues

About the author

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns