The readings this Sunday challenge us to be compassionate towards others in the same way that we expect compassion to be shown to us when we get things wrong. There is a wonderful example in the first reading from the first book of Samuel, where David and Abishai come across a sleeping Saul; Abishai, who was David’s nephew and one of his trusted lieutenants, claimed God had put Saul under their power and offered to go and slay him. David refused because he feared God and did not want to suffer God’s wrath; this was not the first time David had chosen to spare Saul when others may have made different decisions.
In the second reading St Paul reminds us of Adam; the first man in need of compassion and the first to receive God’s mercy andcompassion. St Paul compares Adam with Jesus; through Adam we are all in need of God’s compassion and mercy. Jesus who is God, has an endless supply of compassion which He uses every day. Jesus emptied himself that day on Calvary and He empties himself everyday forgiving us, as sinners, through the love He has for us He grants us mercy and compassion. St Paul reminds us that Jesus is the perfect example to follow; saying that we who are models of Adam, will be models of Jesus when we forgive.
Mercy and compassion are words which are often used together and at times appear to be interchangeable, but there is a difference. Mercy means being kind or giving a forgiving treatment to someone who could be treated harshly. The word originated from the Latin merces, meaning “price” or “wages”. Originally, it does not connote equality but disparity. The act is in response to another’s need, such as offering help, forgiveness, or cancelling debts. Whereas compassion is a sympathetic consciousness of other people’s suffering, coupled with the longing to alleviate it. It came from two Latin words, com (with) and pati (to suffer). Literally, it translates to “to suffer with”.1 When we look on others with a heart full of compassion, it can make a real difference to how we respond to that person or situation.
In St Luke’s Gospel we hear Jesus continue to turn man’s thoughts upside down. Last week we heard how blessed the poor, the hungry and the persecuted are. This week Jesus tells us not to hate, but to love our enemies. To treat others as we would want to be treated; not to judge others or we will be judged. He gives examples of lending money to people who you know can pay it back, stating that even sinners do that. Jesus is telling us to be generous, as our Father in heaven is generous; all that we have we have received through Him. With Jesus going on to say that we must lend without any expectation of receiving anything back. This is not our obvious default.
When I think of this reading, I have to ask myself who do I see as enemies? I have never been a soldier, so have never been to war; therefore, I have never been in the position of David sparing someone’s life. But I have been in the position to potentially save other’s lives and not always taken them. I do not stop at every homeless person on the street to ask how they are; I justify to myself that I can’t help everyone; that perhaps someone else will help them. But is this just an excuse? What motivates me or prompts me to stop at some and not with others? I need to look at that and pray about it. Who else would I perhaps see as enemies? Is it the fans of opposing teams to the football team I follow? I have relatives and friends who support them; I definitely don’t see them as enemies, but what about the others?
Jesus tells us not to judge; who do I judge? I have no right to judge anyone as I have plenty of my own faults to focus on and address if I truly want to walk in the light. I believe these are questions we all need to ask ourselves. Who do I see as my enemy? Who do I judge? Where in my life do I need to show more compassion?
As our psalm says today, “The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy”. Who makes us feel angry when we see them? Is this an indication of where we should be applying mercy?
This is a time when many families are finding it tough to pay for everyday items and keep their homes warm. As we approach the season of Lent, as Christians we will be looking for things to do as penance. Perhaps based on the readings from today we could ask ourselves where in my community can I show the compassion and mercy of Jesus? Where do I see a need? In what way(s) does this move me out of my comfort zone? What can I do to help and what am I prepared to do?
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2
CCC 210-211: God of mercy
CCC 1825, 1935, 1968, 2303, 2647, 2842-2845: forgiveness of enemies
CCC 359, 504: Christ as the New Adam
Please keep in your prayers
- Anyone who could be considered to be your enemy.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
- The listening stage of the 16th Synod of Bishops which is entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” that all Catholics will take part.
- The families due to complete the Baptism Preparation Course this weekend in St Bede’s.
- Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
- Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.