Compassion is defined as the desire to alleviate the suffering of another; to give care and concern. Compassion differs from pity in that compassion requires an act of charity, whereas pity requires only a feeling of sorrow for someone else’s suffering/situation. To have true compassion for someone means that you step into the sphere of suffering, without forming judgment, and you do what you can to alleviate the suffering of someone else. Sounds a little Christ-like, doesn’t it?
Think about it. The Word Incarnate became flesh; He stepped into humanity, with all of its suffering, and took upon Himself all of humankind’s sin and pain when nailed to the Cross. Christ did this so that we might live. He always has and always will show great care and concern for us. He instructs us to do the same for our neighbor.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus speaks of the Samaritan who stepped into the suffering of the Jewish man lying on the roadside, beaten and robbed (Luke 10:29-37). Samaritans and Jews, in general, were known to have unfriendly relations with each other. Without forming judgment, the Samaritan acted with charitable compassion to address the Jewish man’s needs. The Samaritan saw a need for humanitarian aid and seized the opportunity without thinking twice of the consequences. He acted in a Christ-like manner.
How often do we act like the Good Samaritan in our everyday lives? Jesus gives us ample opportunities each day to act with compassion. Do we seize the opportunity, or do we look the other way? Are we good at expressing pity, but not compassion? It is much easier to be compassionate with loved ones, but what about the stranger; the enemy? As we enter the Advent and Christmas seasons, this is the perfect time of year to begin embracing the virtue of compassion; to enter the sphere of suffering, to alleviate that suffering, by feeding the hungry, giving rest to the weary, visiting the sick and imprisoned.
Why should we embrace Compassion? We’ll address the answer to that question in our next reflection. Don’t miss it!
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