Thursday, March 20, 2008

On Compassion

A reflection for the Mass readings of March 17, 2008 (Is 42:1-7; Jn 12:1-11) by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB.

In today's reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah it says: "Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased... he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the streets. A bruised reed he shall not break and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching." (Is 42:1-4)

He prepares people for justice-- He doesn't go in with an iron arm and just break everything apart. The heat of His love warms us and prepares us. And I think that's what God asks of an abbot, and abbess. You don't break people, but patiently suffer with them. Understanding is difficult. It takes much more courage to be patient than it does to just walk in there and break everything apart. That's not what we're called to do-- God doesn't do that to us. Instead He knows and is patient with us and waits for the day we say, "I did that?" And we have much more compassion on people when we have seen how much compassion another has had on us.

Now we go to today's Gospel. What does it say? We hear Judas saying, "We could have taken this money and given it to the poor." (Jn 12:5) Obviously, it is a good thing to give to the poor; but here it's misconstrued. Judas is taking something and putting a lovely twist on it. Jesus simply says: "Leave her alone." (Jn 12:7) He doesn't rant at Judas; He knows he's stealing. He knows what's going on. But too much harshness creates bitterness and that is a difficult thing to chew on. That takes so much more because there's a slight touch of righteousness as you can think: "Why do they have to treat me that way?"

Jesus is ever kind. When we go through and watch His passion, when we participate and share in it, we share in carrying it on ourselves. And we also carry one another's burdens. Be grateful for that. I know that somewhere in my life somebody has had a right to rant at me a little bit but didn't. I say, "Thank you." And it causes me instead to turn to the Lord and say "I'm sorry, help me to do better again." If they instead come and rant at me, how do I feel? Not always very kindly back. And so I think if we err a little on the side of kindness, it's by far better than being an iron fist.

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