By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“Compassion allows you to see reality; compassion is like the lens of the heart: it allows us to take in and understand the true dimensions. In the Gospels, Jesus is often moved by compassion. And compassion is also the language of God”
Next Monday, August 10, we go to the polls to elect the 41 persons, each of whom will sit as a member of the House of Representatives.
The moral test of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. Let’s continue to encourage those elected to use the nation’s resources to promote the dignity of each person and build the common good.
Today’s Gospel, Matthew 14:13–21, tells of Jesus’ compassion. After Jesus received news that John the Baptist had been beheaded by King Herod, He withdrew by boat to a lonely place where He and His disciples could be by themselves.
The fact that 5,000 men in addition to women and children went to this lonely place by foot to meet Him, is testimony to the impact He was having on the lives of many. Note that He “took pity on them and healed their sick”.
We don’t know how far the people had journeyed to get there. When evening came and His disciples suggested that the people be sent to go and buy themselves food from neighbouring villages, Jesus instead had compassion on them and performed the miracle of the loaves.
Note that this miracle is recorded in all four gospels. The five loaves and two fish not only fed the crowd, but 12 baskets of scraps were gathered after they had all eaten.
As disciples of Christ, when we go out on our daily Mission, do we trust that God will perform miracles through us?
I recall that throughout her life, my mother was known as the woman with ‘barracat hand’. It’s a local saying which means that no matter how many people turn up at one’s home, there is always food in the pot to feed family and visitors. I remember during one of Archbishop Pantin’s visit to our home in London, some Trinis heard that he was coming to have a meal with us, as he sometimes did when he stopped over in London on his way to Rome.
Many persons turned up at our home to see him. My mother had more faith than I did. I hurried to the kitchen where she was busy preparing the meal.
In response to my concern that we wouldn’t have enough food, she calmly said: “God will provide.” And so, He did; He truly blessed our offering.
On September 17, 2019, as Vatican News reported, during his homily at Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis asked the faithful present to open their hearts to compassion and not to “close themselves” in indifference.
Compassion, he said, is the language of God. He explained that “compassion is not a feeling of pity, a sentiment one would feel for example when seeing a dog die on the road”. It is when compassion takes hold he explained, “we get involved in the problems of others”.
The Pope referred to the parable of the multiplication of the loaves. “‘The Lord had compassion because he saw these people as sheep without a shepherd,’ said the Pope, noting that the gospel speaks, on one hand, of Jesus’ gesture of compassion, and on the other of the selfish attitude of the disciples who ‘seek a solution without compromise, who do not get their hands dirty, as if to leave those people to get on with it: ‘If compassion is the language of God, so often human language is that of indifference,’ he said.
We must ask ourselves, he said: ‘How many times do we look away…? By doing so we close the door to compassion,’ he continued, inviting those present ‘to make an examination of conscience’ and ask themselves whether they let the Holy Spirit take them along the road to compassion. ‘That it is a virtue of God,’ he said.”
On October 5, 2019, he “warned that there’s a long history of followers of Jesus paying lip service to compassion but failing to honour it in practice. God’s love for his people is drenched with compassion, to the extent that, in this covenant relationship, what is divine is compassionate, while, sad to say, it appears that what is human is so often lacking in compassion” (https://angelusnews.com/).
Let’s embrace the virtue of compassion.