From The Very Depths

11 July 2006: Tuesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 9. 32-26: Compassion from the Depths

Have you ever been so moved to your very depths, that your heart sank and bled as those whom you feel deeply for? When we saw the victims of natural calamities such as the past floods, earthquakes and tidal waves, we find ourselves scrounging for food, clothing and medicines. We join the thousand of donors contributing to relief operations and disaster programs. When we see sick children flashed on television needing funds for a special surgery, we find ourselves jotting down the contact number and giving them a portion of our wealth. When we see an acquaintance, a friend, or a dorm-mate who always eats alone, we naturally feel the need to talk to them, no matter how shy we are. We all do feel a little pinch in our hearts when we see people alone. Moreover, our hearts become terribly affected when those who suffer are those we love. When their heart groans with sorrow and pain, we too feel their pain. Then we are moved from the depths of our being. This is what Jesus felt --- perhaps more intense than us.

The Gospel tells us that when Jesus saw the people who were bewildered and dejected like sheep without a shepherd, Jesus was moved with compassion from the depths of his being. The Greek word used for moved with compassion was splagchnistheis, which is the strongest word for pity. It comes from the word splagchna, from the bowels, and it describes the compassion of a person moved from the deepest core of his being.

The ministry of compassion remains a challenge in the Church. As the Church begins to be more institutionalized, the leaders of the Church or even its personnel may become inaccessible. For example, a mother needing immediate medicine for her sick child may find it strenuous to follow several steps before given money. Thus, we are able to help, but the bureaucracy shields us from involving our hearts, shielding us from further emotional investment. Thus, we can be compassionate at a shallow level, without being moved from the depths of our being.

However, the ministry of personal care (cura personalis) is a ministry of the Consoling Christ whose heart is affected from its depths by people who are in dire need. When our devotions bring us to the two hearts of Mary and Jesus, we are asked to pray that our hearts may be molded according to the two hearts that bleeds out of love for us. Blessed Peter Favre SJ wrote about this ministry of the consoling Christ. Peter Favre wished to be the one “who helps, delivers, heals, frees, enriches and strengthens” in order to bring to others “not only in spiritual matters, but also --- if such daring and hope are permitted by God --- in a material fashion, with all that charity can do for the soul and body of any of our brothers and sisters” (Memorial, 26.10.1542).

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