The thought for this week is Compassion. Compassion is the recognition of another person’s suffering accompanied by the disposition to alleviate that suffering. Compassion is a type of feeling where you tend to feel for the person concerned. You strongly feel sorry for the state of a person without attempting to know what is in his or her mind. Without even understanding the intensity of his or her problem or predicament you simply feel sorry for a person; which is different from empathy. But compassion has a second component: to alleviate that suffering. You witness the suffering of another, and your compassion; from the feeling to the action.
Then the holy lover of complete humility went to the lepers and lived with them, serving them most diligently for God's sake; and washing all foulness from them, he wiped away also the corruption of the ulcers, just as he said in his Testament: "When I was in sins, it seemed extremely bitter to me to look at lepers, and the Lord himself led me among them and I practiced mercy with them." So greatly loathsome was the sight of lepers to him at one time, he used to say, that, in the days of his vanity, he would look at their houses only from a distance of two miles and he would hold his nostrils with his hands. But now, when by the grace and the power of the Most High he was beginning to think of holy and useful things, while he was still clad in secular garments, he met a leper one day and, made stronger than himself, he kissed him. From then on, he began to despise himself more and more, until, by the mercy of the Redeemer, he came to perfect victory over himself. Of other poor, too, while he yet remained in the world and still followed the world, he was the helper, stretching forth a hand of mercy to those who had nothing, and showing compassion to the afflicted. For when one day, contrary to his custom, for he was a most courteous person, he upbraided a certain poor man who had asked an alms of him, he was immediately sorry; and he began to say to himself that it was a great reproach and a shame to withhold what was asked from one who had asked in the name of so great a King. He therefore resolved in his heart never in the future to refuse anyone, if at all possible, who asked for the love of God. This he most diligently did and carried out, until he sacrificed himself entirely and in every way; and thus he became first a practitioner before he became a teacher of the evangelical counsel: To him who asks of thee, he said, give; and from him who would borrow of thee, do not turn away.”
[First Life of Saint Francis, Thomas of Celano]
Compassion moves us from something to something else: from empathy to action. Jesus was moved with compassion and he did something about it. Being a bearer of peace, it is not enough to be your brother’s or sister’s keeper; you are your brother and your sister. They belong to you and you belong to them in the Kingdom of God.
“He has made His wonderful works to be
remembered; The Lord is gracious and full
of compassion.” ~ Psalm 111:4
When was the last time you were moved with compassion? What did you do about it?
Action for this Week:
Keep in mind that we belong to each other and let compassion guide your day.
Prayer for the Week:
Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart,
and give me right faith,
and perfect charity,
wisdom and understanding,
Lord, that I may carry out
your holy and true command.
Carolyn D. Townes, OFS
with edits and additions by Judith A. Terrameo, OSF