So often the gift of compassion is a two-edged sword-we feel motivated and called to act, but feel helpless and overwhelmed at the magnitude of suffering in the world.
For me, this means attempting to reconcile the reality of suffering in the world with the reality of my ability to do something about it. I have come to realize that while I cannot do everything, I can do something. So now I begin with asking myself - What CAN I do?
When I look at things from this vantage point, suddenly I become not only more aware of suffering, but of opportunities to respond to it.
I see that suffering knows no boundaries and that there are needs as close as next door and as far as a continent away. Suffering is not limited to age or race. It is not confined to economic or social status.
It can strike unexpectedly like a hurricane leaving thousands displaced, or it can arrive slowly latching onto an individual like a slow growing cancer. Perhaps most insidious is the suffering that comes at the hand of another - a husband who abuses his wife, a parent who abuses their child, an owner who abuses an animal; or a crazed shooter who open-fires on a gathering full of unsuspecting, innocent people.
The gift of compassion looks into the eyes or suffering and responds. It calls us to leave our comfort zone, to be inconvenienced, perhaps even to suffer hardship. It can call us to respond to an individual or to the masses. The response can be as simple as wiping a tear from a child's eye, praying with someone whose loved one is near death or as complicated as carrying out a search and rescue operation, or organizing a relief campaign for victims of natural disasters.
God in his mercy has given us this gift of compassion - this gift which allows us to come alongside those who are suffering and offer outstretched hands - this gift which allows us to truly make a difference in the life of others. A gift which Christ not only gives to us, but receives back unto himself as well, as Matthew 25 reads:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"
The King will reply, "I tell you the truth whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
Compassion - a two-edged sword, but a triple gift - a gift given to us by the Lord, a gift which we then give to others, a gift which then returns to our Lord, the giver of all good gifts.
How will you use your gift of compassion?
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