REFLECTION: Be both orthodox and compassionate PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 02 March 2015 13:14



These two are often seen to be incompatible with each other or that, at least, they don’t get along well. That’s the challenge, since they are supposed to be together. One of them cannot be without the other.

To be orthodox is usually seen as being strict, old-fashioned and traditional, narrow-minded and intolerant, quite attached or even fixated with doctrinal correctness, while to be compassionate is held as being open-minded, tolerant, adaptive, innovative and sensitive to pastoral realities, sometimes carried to the extreme.

While there will always be some grain of truth in these observations, they need to be purified and completed, reassessed and updated, because they do not capture the whole picture, and the ideal for us is that, like it or not, we should be both orthodox and compassionate.

We should not fault orthodoxy for being strict and old-fashioned, etc., because it is concerned about universal and absolute truths that are supposed to be timeless and meant to be passed on from generation to generation. This is serious business that should not be dispensed.

Orthodoxy gives us light and sense of direction as we pass through the confusing highways of life. It is an integral part of our effort to be faithful and persevering in our quest of loving God and loving others, which is what we are meant for in this life.

Neither should compassion be faulted for being open-minded, tolerant and all that, because it is what is needed in our dealings with others. Our direct contact with them commands us to love them irrespective of how they are, even if they are in grave error and have offended us.

This was how Christ behaved and what he taught us. He was always compassionate with the sinners even to the point of making himself like sin, and of bearing all the sinfulness of men by offering his life on the cross. If we don’t get saved in spite of what he did, it will not be his fault. It will be entirely ours.

Compassion would somehow give light to our orthodoxy, since it will give new and continuing data to the latter, thus helping to purify, update and enrich our orthodoxy. Let’s never forget that our orthodoxy is our human effort to catch the eternal, and as such will always be a work in progress. It’s not meant to freeze and harden.

The tension between orthodoxy and compassion only reflects our human condition that has to cope with the demands of the old and the new, the traditional and the innovative, the historical and the eternal, the absolute and the relative, the idea and the theory, on one hand, and the praxis, on the other, the doctrinal and the pastoral.

The tension only reveals how we are—that we are made of body and soul, we are both material and spiritual, we operate both in time (past, present and future) and in eternity, we have to use both our intelligence and emotions, we have to live here and now and yet be concerned with the ultimate, etc.

The tension only shows that we are nothing without God, but with God we have everything, that we are capable of the ugliest evil but also of the greatest good, that we can fall but we can also rise again.

We should not make a big fuss about this tension between orthodoxy and compassion. It is a given in life and we just have to learn to live with it. There will always be some mistakes we commit along the way, but as long as we are humble and simple enough to acknowledge our mistakes and to abide in God’s love and truth, everything will be ok. There is always hope.

Others may misunderstand us, and we too can misunderstand others, but as long as at the end of each day we examine ourselves and admit our errors, saying sorry for them while learning from them, we can move on, and would be doing so in the right path.

Let’s remember that God never leaves us. He is always intervening in our life and is leading us to him and to all that is good and proper to us in his own mysterious ways that may escape our attention.

So let’s be calm and confident, always with a big smile on our face, being sport always, promptly apologizing when for some reason or another we commit fouls, as well as promptly forgiving when others do the same to us.

Let’s be both orthodox and compassionate to the best of our abilities.