God’s Story, Your Story and Our Story Through the Eyes of the Gospel Writers:
Updated: Apr 14, 2020
Empathy Today–We Belong to Each Other: a Reflection on Ephesians 1:3-14 and John 1:10-18
Today is the Second Sunday after Christmas. Why is that important? The most significant event in history occurred at the birth of Jesus. Jesus’ birth changed everything. The incarnation is the historic event when God the Father made himself known as God the Son. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was both true God and true man. God descended to us, to save us, because we are incapable to ascend to God to be saved. That’s why remembering the Second Sunday after Christmas is important.
“For God so loved the world.” God empathizes with each one of us. Empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another…” It is through empathy that we demonstrate compassion. When we demonstrate compassion through empathy, we become interlocked with one other. Father Gregory Boyle, the author of Tattoos on the Heart, reminds us that we belong to each other. The world’s ills are rooted in the reality that we have forgotten that we belong to each other. Boyle writes, “Kinship is what happens when we refuse to let that happen. With kinship as the goal, other essential things fall into place; without it, no justice, no peace.”
The texts in Ephesians 1:3-14 and John 1:10-18 affirm that we belong to each other and that is God’s intention. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. Ephesians 1:3-14 describes how God has brought each one of us into a new definition of community. God saves, rescues, liberates and prepares us to bear witness to God’s empathy and grace. How is that accomplished? Through one another. Think about it. When you were born, you did not survive without receiving comprehensive care from others. Without the love of God being lived out though our families, friends and churches, we’d be in big trouble. John 1:10-18 affirms Jesus’ oneness with God and humanity. Jesus knows us. Jesus lives his life in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We receive grace upon grace from God. It is in that way that the light of Christ is seen in and through each one of us. The light of Jesus Christ is seen, heard and known through our interactions with others as we heal, teach and love in the name of Jesus Christ.
We belong to each other. The God who creates us is the same God who saves us, the same God who lives in us, and will be the same God who returns to take us to live with him forever. Jesus emptied his life for each one of us. We are to empty our lives for others. Father Boyles relates how he lives for others, because he belongs to others, when he addresses how he speaks on a rotating basis at twenty-five detention institutions in Los Angeles County—juvenile halls, probation camps, jails and state youth authority facilities. Boyle writes, “After Mass, in the gym or chapel or classroom, I hand out my card. The infomercial is always the same: Call me when you get out. I’ll hook you up with a job—take off your tattoos—line ya up with a counselor. I won’t know where you are, but with this card, you’ll know where I am. Don’t slow drag. Cuz if you do, you’ll get popped again and end up right back here. So call me.”
The incarnation calls you to walk in the interval between birth and death with empathy…. God is for you, not against you. Be empathetic with others. Why? We belong to each other. That is God purposed. Ponder that truth today and see what a difference it can make in resolving injustice and despair in human experience.
This definition of empathy is taken from the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart (New York, New York: Free Press, 2010), 187.
In this textual analysis, I have benefited from the thinking of Richard F. Ward, Stephen B. Boyd, Kristin Stroble and Jill Duffield in Connections, Year A, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 137-139, 139-140, 141-143 and 143-145.
Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, 187.