Friday, April 6, 2018

The Depth of Compassion

Dear Friends,

The Blessings of the Easter Season to you as we begin to explore the meaning of Christ’s Resurrection!

While there are many aspects to life with the Risen Lord, we begin today with God’s call for us to be compassionate toward all of our brothers and sisters. Compassion in our wounded world is not something we aspire to on our own. Compassion resides fully in God, our creator, who walks with people in their suffering, history and destiny. Jesus himself discloses to us the compassion of God.

Jesus teaches us the meaning of compassion in his teaching and healing actions. The story of the Good Samaritan is a touching parable of compassion for one’s unknown, unrelated neighbor. Good Sam, as some call him, was attracted and moved by the fragility, suffering and weakness of the fallen man. Good Sam was willing to undergo risk, loss and scorn in order to help the stranger. At its best, compassion, the deepest feelings of our heart, is the movement not to be dispassionate about the suffering of others, but to enter into it in solidarity and communion with them, and in the process, help to alleviate human suffering wherever we find it. Remember, too, the father of the prodigal son who saw his son returning from a distance, and “moved with compassion, ran to meet him" (Luke 15.20). And most especially, with compassion for the world, Jesus gave His very self on the cross.

There’s nothing trite, sentimental or romantic about being compassionate. As far back as with Confucius, all the major religions of the world have called adherents to do no evil but do good for others – the so called “Golden Rule.” For the sake of God and for the sake of others, compassion requires a willingness on our part to respond to social sin, and evil in its many forms.

Today, a world-wide movement called The Charter for Compassion invites people to shape their minds and hearts to be compassionate as a matter of daily living. Local retired Livingston County Judge and talented wood-worker Jerry Alonzo first heard of The Charter for Compassion at Chautauqua several years ago, as he listened to the British Theologian Karen Armstrong talk about it. Moved by the realization that people have stories of compassion to tell, that compassion is, for them, a way of life, Jerry put out a call for people in the Genesee Valley region to tell him about their practice of compassion or how they’ve experienced it. Jerry put together an art piece consisting of seven columns on which are inscribed the words of people, from children to adults, who had submitted their “take” on compassion.

That art piece on compassion is temporarily on display at our Motherhouse for the public to come, meditate, and wonder about the depth of compassion people speak of, often in the simplest of words (April 3 to April 24, 9 am to 4 pm, M-F).

Stop in, move around the stools in the display area, take time to sit, read and thank God for the people who contributed to the collection. See God’ own compassion in the words you read. Be absorbed in the silence. Finally, make your way to the small table where a notebook awaits your own reflection.

Then come to the Fresh Wind in Our Sails program on The Art of Compassion, Thursday, April 19, 7 to 8:30 pm, when Jerry will lead us through a sharing of what we know, believe,  and experience about compassion.

~Sister Joan Sobala