Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Compassion
Human standards demand retaliation and revenge, disregarding the fact that in this way we perpetuate hatred and even death. By contrast, God tells us that by responding with compassion it may be possible to achieve reconciliation and peace. Our readings today speak to us of this unusual approach.

1 Samuel 26: 2-13: Here we have the young David refusing to take advantage of Saul in spite of all the that he has suffered at Saul's hands. The fact that Saul was the anointed king influenced David not to act against him. In so doing he honoured God.

1 Cor 15:45-49:  Our human nature is material and mortal; life in Christ transforms it allowing us to control our natural reactions to difficult situations. Aware of the jealousies that divided the Corinthian community, Paul explains that we are subject to two influences in life - one, human, deriving from Adam , the second, divine, deriving from Christ. We must allow the second to dominate.

Luke 6: 27-38:  Some of Christ's basic teachings are recorded here to give us a clearer view of what He means by the new and difficult command to love. What we hear is beyond all the boundaries of human comprehension and inclination and involves becoming "fools for Christ's sake". However the key words, I believe, are to be found in Christ's request "to be compassionate as your Father is compassionate".

Point 1: There is a complete reversal of the accepted order in Jesus' directions that we must love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who treat us badly. The list goes on relentlessly! We have heard it so many times that we are inclined not to take it seriously. After all, the old rule "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" suits our natural inclinations. And yet, Christ was insistent that His disciples must act differently. [John 13:34] I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Christian life is a continual attempt to transcend the values that are regarded as absolute in our society. This frequently leaves us being regarded as fools, an attitude all too familiar to St. Paul -We are fools for the sake of Christ! But, in reality, underlying this behaviour that appears to be folly, there is an understanding of human relationships that escapes those not open to Christ's teaching. Such people think that turning the other cheek, or caring for those who hate and curse is the behaviour of passive wimps! Such critics have not grasped the meaning of compassion. Christian love is compassion!

Point 2: With compassion, we can understand that people who hate are generally in great need. They often are people with broken or divided hearts reflected in broken and divided lives, their own and others. With compassion, by not judging or condemning, there is always some chance of reaching out and bringing about change.

Conclusion: This is not the line of least resistance. It is, as we have seen, a line that often attracts scorn; but it is the only way to break the spiral of violence that affects , at all levels, our contemporary societies. And if as Christians, following Jesus' teaching on love and compassion, we do not have the courage to step outside that spiral and question it, then we are turning our backs on what Christ considered necessary.

Scriptural reference: [Col 3:12] As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.