Compassion is prophetic.
This is something that I find perplexing and even at times discouraging. In our Christian tradition and the world in which we live compassion is not the norm, merciful love, it seems, is extraordinary.
Whenever I witness instinctive kindness, someone who is is not inhibited by social taboos or rules but naturally gives, I am surprised. And I wonder even why Jesus’ actions were prophetic?
While wrestling with these things I, just last night, stumbled upon a facebook status that read thus:
"When we look past race, religion and creed to see others just like ourselves -- others who seek love and compassion -- differences that were once monumental collapse."
And that, apparently, was from a 17 year old highschool student. So beware, prophetic voices are everywhere and anywhere. I considered lying about the author and attributing this to somebody famous (ie. Nelson Mandela) but…
Anyway, speaking of prophetic voices, Pope Francis, in his Sunday reflection described compassion as “merciful love”. Compassion, he said, “is the attitude of God in contact with human misery, with our poverty, with our suffering, and with our grief.”
Compassion is an attitude!
In these two quotes, or ideas, I think we find what is expressed by the gospel and the readings for today – and it is all about attitude.
Not only is God none-prejudiced, free to react mercifully to human pain, suffering, and grief, restoring life to the child of Elijah and his Mistress, God can take a murderous and legalistic soul like Paul, a persecutor of Christians, and draw out the goodness and beauty that is there – compassionately transforming even an enemy into a prophet of love.
The message there is that if I can consider myself in the experience of somebody I detest, and exercise compassion to towards him, I am truly prophetic.
Compassion, according to the gospels, is always prophetic.
When Jesus responds to a grieving woman, a widow, in the same manner that God responds to request of Elijah, the crowds are stunned. When Jesus restores life, witnesses are afraid. What does this mean for us, do they wonder? Well it means the same for them, as it means for others, and it means the same for you and myself.
God’s merciful love knows no limits. God loves everyone, even those whom you and I despise. And, remarkably, God loves you and I as well.
All of us, we are the poor, sometimes the miserable, the grieving, we are the needy who seek compassion and love. And from God we, in stunning ways, receive it.
And so might we be transformed by what we recieve. Like St. Paul, and like the woman in the gospel, might we share what God gives. May merciful love change our attitudes toward others. Might we become what we desire. May we look past differences, and prophetically react with compassion and love to each other, and to all.