Marvin Repinski: The compassion and good done by religious people

Published 5:22 pm Friday, January 27, 2023

“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….to comfort all who mourn.” (The Bible, Isaiah 61:1-9).

Several examples of dedicated, loving service — an extension of the message of Jesus — may give the reader compassion for others.

One: The Episcopal Church celebrates the life and ministry of a man who was born a house slave in Delaware, was sold to a store owner in Philadelphia when he was 16, bought his freedom 22 years later, and helped found the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which still exists in Philadelphia.

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Absalom Jones became a priest in 1802, and went on to be known as “the Black Bishop of the Episcopal Church.” Denouncing slavery, Jones preached God’s good news to the oppressed and called on the oppressors to “Clean their hands of slaves.” Yet, it was his mild manner and constant visiting that won him a place in many Philadelphians’ hearts.

Two: A woman, Maggie Green, writing for the Catholic Church, has expressed her heart’s cry for persons who may have left, “strayed” from a former spiritual life.

“We could feel tremors before the break, the shift in how she spoke, in how she treated others. We could see his heart hardening to God, to the Church, to us. Some would say that’s adolescence, but it always felt like more.

There’s no small amount of soul searching that goes on when someone you love leaves the faith. You look for that moment when you guessed wrong, and you view each step away a little like proof you failed as a Catholic in your darker moments; easy prey for despair and frustration. It’s a human desire to want to win, to present all of your children like talents in the Gospel, to the Master. ‘See, I had two talents, I made this many more.’”

Three: Mission to others is a term employed by most of the larger religions of the world. The goals — to enable others in the hurts of life and to support the everyday challenges of security, are the aspects of a religious life that really matter.

The prayer can be offered by the followers of many members of the world religions: “Give me strength to live another day; let me not lose faith in other people; keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery or meanness.”

The United Methodist Church, similar to other denominations, has programs for youth and adults to render their talents, finances, and strengths to various, I call them, “work and rebuilding projects.”

The writing of one of these paragraphs, a person who plunged into an unknown territory out of a deep compassion — a desire to do good — is as follows:

A recent college graduate, Lisa McCrady of the River Hills United Methodist Church, counseled in an inner-city Bible Camp with children and teenagers in the Watts District in Los Angeles. She depicts the rewards of mission service. “These kids’ home life is a living nightmare. One child, Freddy, lived with his mother (a drug pusher, user and prostitute). Jamal lived with his mother, her friend, and twenty other children (ten unrelated). ‘Our mothers are acid-heads and my father is in jail for life for murder.’ It was quite an eye-opener. I don’t think I would’ve understood the purpose of this mission unless I would’ve seen for myself where these children came from. The things I prayed for preceding the trip were: 1) That I would develop a servant’s heart. 2) Our group’s safety in the city, and 3) To be broken by God spiritually. God did, and still is, answering these prayers; especially No. 3. Let’s just say I got a crash course in ‘Humility 101.’ There were many situations where I felt ‘out of my comfort zone’ and inadequate, but God helped me through all the rough times. So ‘brokenness’ I asked for, ‘brokenness’ I received. But through submission to God’s ways, came great rewards and growth. I have so many great memories to carry with me from this experience. I built great friendships with people from all walks of life. I learned more about my own walk with God and I got a taste of the inner-city culture. Most of all, I discovered how great and mighty God is!”