By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis on Tuesday invited the faithful to open their hearts to compassion. Speaking during the homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, he urged those present not to “close themselves” in indifference.
He reflected on the Gospel reading of the day which tells of Jesus’ encounter with a widow in the city of Nain who is mourning the death of her only son as he taken to the grave. The evangelist does not say that Jesus had compassion, the Pope said, but that "the Lord was moved with compassion,” as if he had been overwhelmed with the sentiment.
The ‘lens’ of the heart
The Pope elaborated further saying it was by looking through “the lens” of compassion that Jesus sees and understands the reality of that woman.
“Compassion allows you to see reality; compassion is like the lens of the heart: it allows us to take in and understand the true dimensions. In the Gospels, Jesus is often moved by compassion. And compassion is also the language of God,” he said.
Pope Francis noted that compassion makes its appearance in the Bible long before the arrival of Christ: it was God who said to Moses, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people,” and it is thanks to the compassion of God that He sends Moses to save the people.
“Our God is a God of compassion, and compassion - we can say – is the weakness of God, but also His strength,” he said.
Pope Francis went on to elaborate on the fact that compassion is not a feeling of pity, a sentiment he explained, one would feel for example when seeing a dog die on the road. It is when compassion takes hold he explained, "we get involved in the problems of others".
The language of God
Drawing again from the Gospel, the Pope referred to the parable of the multiplication of the loaves. He recalled when Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd while they wanted to dismiss those present and send them off to buy themselves something to eat. "The disciples were prudent,” the Pope said, “I believe that at that moment Jesus was angry, in his heart”, and when he heard their answer he urged them “to give them food!”
“The Lord had compassion because he saw these people as sheep without a shepherd,” said the Pope, noting that the Gospel speaks, on one hand, of Jesus’ gesture of compassion, and on the other of the selfish attitude of the disciples who “seek a solution without compromise, who do not get their hands dirty, as if to leave those people to get on with it:
“If compassion is the language of God, so often human language is that of indifference,” he said.
We must ask ourselves, he said: “How many times do we look away...? By doing so we close the door to compassion,” he continued ,inviting those present “to make an examination of conscience” and ask themselves whether they let the Holy Spirit take them along the road to compassion.
“That it is a virtue of God,” he said.
An act of justice
The Pope concluded reflecting further on today’s Gospel especially when the Lord said to the grieving mother: “Do not weep”.
With his caress of compassion Jesus returned the young man to his mother, the Pope said, noting that the evangelist uses the word “to return” which implies an act of justice.
“Compassion takes us along the path to true justice. We must always return what rightfully belongs to someone else, and this always saves us from selfishness, from indifference, from our own closure”.
And he prayed that the Lord may also have compassion for each of us: “We need it.”