Playing football (the soccer kind) there was one response that drew the harshest of all reactions from the referee. That was of retaliation. A foul was treated accordingly with a penalty or card, but to for a player to retaliate was considered utterly unacceptable. Such action drew an instant red card and sending off from the game.
Sadly, the impulse for retaliation has taken on a stronger and a seemingly more acceptable place in our society with rage and spite on greater public display.
We have even creatively devised a retaliation before the fact. We call it a pre-emptive strike and we have found ways to justify and validate such actions.
What do we see when we look around our world. What are our reactions and impulses? More importantly, how do we see, and how are we moved? It is not easy to remain passive or even civil.
“When Jesus saw the crowds he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt.9.36)
There are others who would look and see the crowds as sitting ducks, waiting to be fleeced. Forgive the strange mixing of images.
It is compassion, a word that reaches deep into our very being. We feel it in out gut. Our belly squirms in response to the plight of those around … and it may not always be empathy. Sometimes it may be anger (indignation). It is this compassion of Jesus that informs us, inspires us, impulses in us to response with acts of healing and freeing. In this way, the cynical view of the world we have may be transformed into the world of the kingdom of God as revealed in the actions of Jesus.
The Psalm 116 assures us that God “listens to my voice”. Romans speaks to us of peace, access, presence. This is how God sees, and hears, and feels, and acts.
Finally, in our reading from Genesis, we hear Sarah laugh. She laughs at God. Maybe she laughs at herself too. But God has the last laugh, and his name will be Isaac.