CIMAGALA“WHEN Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.” (Mk 6,34)
This is typical of Christ. Wherever he went, though he had to convey difficult and hard-to-understand messages to the people, since these messages were mainly spiritual and supernatural in character, he never neglected their more immediate human needs.
Thus, he cured the sick, restored sight to the blind, made the lame walk, cleansed the leper, fed thousands of people, and even brought the dead back to life again.
His heart flowed always with compassion, quick to notice the needs of others and to respond to them. And all this in all simplicity, telling the beneficiaries who were so bursting with gratitude that they wanted to broadcast what they received to the whole world, to keep quiet instead.
It’s an example that we should all try to imitate. One deep desire we should have is that of making as some kind of default mode that attitude of thinking always of the others, wishing them well all the time and doing whatever we can to help.
It’s obviously not easy to do, but we can always try. With God’s grace and with our persistent effort, we can little by little and day by day hack it, such that it becomes second nature to us to think and feel for the others. That’s what compassion is all about.
Compassion starts in the heart, in our thoughts and desires. In this level, there is no limit in what we can do. Obviously, when we try to translate these prayers, thoughts and desires into action and material things, we can be greatly limited. But insofar as prayers and sacrifices are involved, the possibilities are unlimited.
We need to examine ourselves more deeply to see if indeed we are always thinking, praying and wishing others well. We have to be wary of our tendency to let our thoughts and desired be dictated only by self-interest, usually done in a most subtle but effective way. For this, we have to do regular examination of conscience.
We need to be on guard because the environment around, the culture and general lifestyle are such that gives only token and never authentic expressions of compassion, or a compassion that is highly conditioned, adapted more to the appeasement of one’s ruffled feelings than to truly helping others.
And this attitude, like a default mode, should be with us even when we have to deal with the defects, mistakes and offenses of the others. In fact, I would say, our compassion should grow more intense in these situations.
In a sense, while we should show compassion to beggars and those living in some miserable human conditions, we have to show greater compassion to those who may be rich but are openly separated from God. These latter suffer a graver poverty than that of the former.
This can only mean that our compassion is genuine, that it really is a function and expression of charity, and not just a passing and shallow sense of pity, based mainly on external factors rather than on the true dignity of each person as a child of God.
Our compassion should not be skin-deep only. It has to go all the way, the way Christ himself had compassion with us and continues to do so up to now. His compassion did not stop merely on curing and healing. He went all the way to preaching, forgiving sins—things that put him in trouble—and ultimately giving his life up for us.
Our compassion should not only cover the material aspects of our life. More important are the spiritual and those involved in our supernatural destiny. So, aside from the corporal works of mercy that we ought to do, we should be more concerned about the spiritual works of mercy.
That is to say, we have to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And beyond these, we have to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently and pray for the living and the dead.
All of these involve and, in fact, require a big amount of sacrifice. We should not be afraid to make these sacrifices. To those who truly follow Christ, sacrifices are a sure sign of love. True charity can never do away with sacrifice.