Students understand mission through acts of compassion

| Deacon Mickey Friesen | May 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

Christelle Mba, a third-grader at St. Peter School in Forest Lake, writes with a pencil in her mouth to experience what it is like to live with a physical disability. Photo courtesy of St. Peter School

Each year the Center for Mission sponsors a writing contest for students across the archdiocese. This year students considered how they can follow the example of Jesus’ mission today.

We received more than 600 entries of pictures, poems, prayers and essays highlighting how, like Jesus, they can reach out to those who feel like outsiders, the sad, sick, poor and vulnerable.

Gaining empathy

The most unique drawings came from third-graders at St. Peter’s School in Forest Lake. They were especially creative and insightful, not because of what they drew, but how they drew.

Each child drew a picture of Jesus’ mission today with a pencil in his or her mouth. Why? Because they had learned about the dignity of all God’s people, even those we don’t understand or who seem strange or different to us.

In particular, they learned about people who suffer from physical and mental disabilities. For them, following Jesus’ mission today means showing compassion. Therefore, the children tried to imagine what it would be like to be unable to use their arms, and make a picture with their mouth.

The children told me that when they tried to understand from the inside what it is like to be disabled, it helped lessen their fear and increase their understanding of people who look or act differently.

During this season of Easter, we get to ponder the meaning of Resurrection faith. We get to hear again about the first witnesses of the risen Christ as they struggle to believe their eyes that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

In each case they have to face their fears and doubts and be willing to let go of their old life so that they can receive a new life in Christ.  Jesus meets them in their fears and offers them peace by showing his wounds. In that moment the disciples are moved to trust and joy.

As Scripture says, “By his wounds, we are healed.” The risen Christ is the wounded healer who breathes his Spirit on the disciples and sends them forth into the world to be signs and witnesses of God’s loving forgiveness and healing.

Jesus says: “As the Father has sent me, so I now send you. Live in my love.” This is the example of Jesus’ mission, which we are called to follow today.

Offering compassion

Like the school children, can we accept that all persons are made in the image and likeness of God?

How can this truth help us see with the eyes of Christ beneath the differences and wounds that can scare and separate us?

How can we acknowledge our own wounds and seek healing?

And how can our wounds and vulnerabilities be a teacher of compassion and understanding others?

On Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the continuing mission of Christ being born in the church. We are the body of Christ sent forth to be signs and witnesses of God’s reign among us. We can continue Jesus’ ministry of compassion that suffers with those who are different, vulnerable, sick and sorrowful.

From the place of compassion, we can better understand and respect those who are strange or scary to us.   Bringing our fears and wounds before the Lord can transform them into a source of life for others. In Jesus’ name, we can be wounded healers.

Deacon Mickey Friesen is director of the archdiocesan Center for Mission.

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Category: Mission Link