“Compassion is not sentiment but is making justice and doing works of mercy. Compassion is not a moral commandment but a flow and overflow of the fullest human and divine energies.”
– Matthew Fox
We have just entered the season of compassion, a time when churches, schools, service organizations and others are found everywhere handing out food baskets, escorting children on shopping trips for toys and clothes and filling requests from Angel Trees. As the Christmas song proclaims, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” This season brings out the best in everyone, as we are lost in giving. Recently news programs have focused on “Secret Santas” moving from street corner to street corner handing out $50 bills to overwhelmed people in need. Some very generous people have visited the lay-away departments in stores, paying the remainder of bills so that struggling customers can buy a baby bed or refrigerator.
These scenes are a welcome relief from the stories of zenaphobia, gun violence and political rhetoric. At least for a time, we see with compassionate eyes and hear with compassionate ears. I believe compassion can lead to passion – a passion for justice that stands with the homeless, the refugee, the victim of domestic violence. We stand on “the foot of charity and the foot of justice.”
I am proud that I live in a city that has been designated a “compassionate city,” one of a few in the country. By being a compassionate city we agree to the charter of compassion, which includes the following:
“…We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in a polarized world. Rooted in a principal determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of a deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”
As Pope Francis opened the door at St. Peter’s Basilica, initiating a Year of Mercy, he invites us to consider every day of every year a time of mercy and compassion. His opening the door of mercy invites us to recognize the mercy of God and pass it on to those most in need.
May this Christmas and New Year be compassion-filled.