St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Compassion                                                                                         -Homily August 3, 2014

 

The Gospel said: “When Jesus went ashore, He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion for them and cured their sick” (Matthew 14.14).

The compassion of Jesus invites us today to reflect on the meaning of Christian compassion.

 

What does compassion mean?

 “Compassion” comes from Latin: com- = with; -passion = patient (one who suffers), meaning “co-suffering” or “to suffer together with”. More involved than simple empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering.

Compassion is the emotion that we feel in response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help.

 

The compassion of Jesus

Jesus, true God and true man, He has come to be His Father’s compassion.

God had compassion. Saint Paul says: “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Romans 9,15-16), and the prophet Isaiah: “For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones” (49,13).

Jesus lived compassion. We can read in the Gospels: “Seeing the multitudes, Jesus felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9,36); “Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, ‘I feel compassion for the multitude, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not wish to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way’” (Matthew 15,32).

Jesus taught compassion. For example the parable of unforgiven servant: “Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18,33) or the parable of Good Samaritan: “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him” (Luke 10,33).

Pope Francis said: “the compassion, that which Jesus feels, is not simply to feel pity. It is much more! It means sympathy, that is, to empathize with the suffering of others to the point of taking it upon oneself! That is how Jesus is! He suffers together with us, He suffers with us, He suffers for us.

 

The example of the Saints

We want to mention 2 examples: Fr. Pio of Pietrelcina and Mother Teresa.

1. Fr Pio of Pietrelcina. He was born on May 25th, 1887 in Pietrelcina, a small town in the Campania region of southern Italy. His name, before he became a Franciscan Capuchin, was Francesco Forgione. At present many people are going as pilgrims to his tomb located in San Giovanni Rotondo (southern Italy). In this village he spent almost all his life. He was worried about the spiritual and corporal necessities of the people.

Spiritual: through confession, where people can make peace with God. Most of his priestly life was spent in the confessional, and some days as many as eighteen hours.

          Saint John Paul II said about him: “Fr Pio was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making himself available to all by welcoming them, by spiritual direction and, especially, by the administration of the sacrament of Penance. I also had the privilege, during my young years, of benefitting from his availability for penitents. The ministry of the confessional, which is one of the distinctive traits of his apostolate, attracted great crowds of the faithful to the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo. Even when that unusual confessor treated pilgrims with apparent severity, the latter, becoming conscious of the gravity of sins and sincerely repentant, almost always came back for the peaceful embrace of sacramental forgiveness”.

          Corporal: his charity was poured out like balm on the weaknesses and the sufferings of his brothers and sisters. Fr Pio thus united zeal for souls with a concern for human suffering, working to build at San Giovanni Rotondo a hospital complex which he called “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (“House for the Relief of Suffering”). He wanted it to be a first-class hospital, but above all he was concerned that the medicine practised there would be truly “human”, treating patients with warm concern and sincere attention. He was quite aware that people who are ill and suffering need not only competent therapeutic care but also, and more importantly, a human and spiritual climate to help them rediscover themselves in an encounter with the love of God and with the kindness of their brothers and sisters.

Saint John Paul II said: “With the ‘House for the Relief of Suffering’, he wished to show that God’s ‘ordinary miracles’ take place in and through our charity. We need to be open to compassion and to the generous service of our brothers and sisters, using every resource of medical science and technology at our disposal.”

 

2. Only one story from the life of Mother Teresa. She wrote: “One day I was walking down the street in London and I saw a man sitting. He looked so lonely, so unwanted. His face was so disturbed. So, I went close to him and I took his hand -and my hands are always very warm- and the man said, ‘Oh, after such a long time I feel the warmth of a human hand.’ And his face changed. There was a big smile on his face. His eyes were again full of life, full of joy. Such a small, small thing -just a shaking of a hand for a few minutes, but it brought new life, in the life, his life.”

 

How to cultivate compassion?

The beginning is to be a friend of God, live in his grace.

We can have compassion for the necessities of our neighbours. Sometimes these are material, sometimes these are spiritual.

          There are people who need food, drinks, clothes, shelter, medicines, a visit of a human being…

          There are people who need advice, consolation, to be forgiven, prayer…

There are people who are far from God, and need someone who speaks to them of God…

          Mother Teresa said: “Love and compassion, have deep compassion for the people. People are suffering much, very, very much, mentally, physically, in every possible way; and so I think you are there to bring that hope, that love, that kindness.”

 

Our compassion

          Our homework this week is reflecting on our personal compassion. What am I doing and what can I do?

          Pope Francis said: “Our personal experience of being accompanied and assisted, and of openness to those who accompany us, will teach us to be patient and compassionate with others, and to find the right way to gain their trust, their openness and their readiness to grow”.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “God still loves the world and He sends you and me to be His love and His compassion to the poor… I want these words to be imprinted in your minds: God still loves through you and through me today. Let me see this love of God in your eyes, in your actions, in the way of your movements”.

         

 Let Our Lady help us to be a compassionate people. –Fr. Higinio

 

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We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings

and wretchedness of other people,

and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit

of compassion which is truly the spirit of God”.   

-Saint Vincent de Paul