Training in compassion
Friday after Epiphany
By Fr. Roy Cimagala
That gospel episode where a man full of leprosy begged Christ to make him clean (cfr. Lk 5,12-16) teaches us the lesson that like Christ we should try our best to be quick in showing compassion to everyone, especially to those in great and urgent need. For this, we have to train ourselves in the art and virtue of compassion which is a matter of entering into the very lives and drama of the others with the spirit of Christ.
If we really want to be “another Christ,” we should be quick to show compassion to others who are in need of one thing or another. 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.
His heart always flowed 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 always thinking 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. We just have to learn to be tough to take on whatever effort is needed. We have to learn to be all things to all men.
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.
Compassion should not be exclusively associated with the sweet and tender moments of pity, sympathy and empathy. It demands sacrifice and self-denial which we should be willing to give.
For this, we have to be willing to complicate our life. There surely will be some need for adjustments in our attitudes, in the way we understand things and view different kinds of people. We have to hone up our skills at versatility, which should not only be a matter of theatric performance but rather that of genuine love for God and for souls.
We have to learn how to flow with the times whose developments are getting more rapid and more varied. We should learn to be very discerning, knowing how to identify and derive anything good that is in any person, situation, ideology, etc., but knowing also their defects, errors, limitations so as not to be trapped by them.