In Thai this phrase ask, “Do you understand?” Here is something thought provoking when we have the literal translation: ‘Kao jai’ mean ‘enter into heart’. Not being a language expert, I shall not venture beyond this literal translation. Here is the provocation: to learn and to understand, especially about morals and values, requires more heart than head. Any teaching imparted must touch the heart.

Tham Luang cave touched our hearts. It taught humankind a better way to live. It showed us a better route for our earthly journey. Hearts were moved with pity, and pity moved humans into action. We were taught something about life, not with words but with deeds. Words were not necessary as we had ‘kao jai’ the teaching. It had already entered our heart.

We hear debates everywhere in public places sometimes degenerating into arguments. Scholars intellectually trying to prove a point. Believers trying to convince disbelievers. Church goers trying to woo back those who had wandered away. Standing on an intellectual mount has its dangers. Head alone risk us descending to being condescending and judgmental, immediately contradicting the morals and values we are trying to teach. Our overzealousness to prove everything by words will only result in further distancing the heart of those we are wooing.

The gospels were written post-Jesus. Act came first, words followed. Language used to try to explain the lessons of life taught by the action of Jesus. Today’s gospel passage tell us that Jesus sat down to teach because he was “moved by pity”. Love flowed from his heart for him to impart his teachings into the hearts of those listening. Deed is a better vehicle than word.

Taking from a friend’s post this week, Fr Ambrose Vaz said, “Our theology is complete and sound. We just lack the language to fully express it”. Spot on. If we are always moved by pity, we will be much closer to fully expressing it.

Humankind has progressed intellectually by leaps and bounds, so much so that we believe more in our own powers of persuasion. In trying to convince a disbeliever we sometimes play with the power of words but without action. When we do not practice what we preach and are not moved by pity, we put more distance between the disbeliever and us. In this widening divide, we hear the echo of the first reading, “Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered” (first reading).

Christ came to woo the hearts of the disbelievers. He closed up the distance not by word but by act. “In Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ” (second reading). The blood of Christ is the pity that flowed from him. It is an act which theology is based on but language unable to fully express. Are the words, “it is an ultimate act of selflessness” enough to give life? Barely enough to match the impact a small act of self-giving will have on the other.

We are all called to be shepherds, all of us part of humankind wandering like sheep in search of a better way to live, to find a better route for our earthly journey. If we are truly believers, we must fully express it in acts of selflessness by allowing pity to flow through us to the other person. And pity can only flow through deed.

Remember the saintly quote, “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words”. If I am a disbeliever, I am more likely to be won over by an experience of faith and an encounter with pity rather than from a debate of the intellect. In those ways the heart of the disbeliever is touched. Every teaching must enter into heart.

Kao jai mai.

Lolling hils

On the Sea of Galilee and the gentle rolling hills where Jesus “moved with pity” taught

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time