The human condition, when fully experienced, is a wonderful gift. Being fully alive and attending to the power of the emotions that spring up with us can be transformative. It is joy that everyone loves to share, but it seems that one of humankind's greatest communal gifts is the care and concern shown when tragedy strikes. People rush in to help, even strangers, and do what they can to assist a person in need. We see this time and time again in persons of all ages, in big and small ways. People reach out when they can, and I believe that even if they miss an opportunity, they intend to help. Compassion, defined as sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others, is a way of life for many people. Our good and gracious God created people whose hearts are filled with compassion for others, and it is one of the greatest gifts we possess. Reaching out to others for assistance builds bridges and allows others to share their gifts and love for humankind in generous ways.
The late Jean Vanier founded L'Arche, an international federation of communities spread over 37 countries, for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them. He said it this way, "I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes." The powerful sharing of our vulnerability unties us and empowers us to be the Body of Christ we are called and meant to be.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church helps us to understand the role of compassion through the love of Jesus. May these words be our prayer: "Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession." (2843)
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