Compassion and the lost sheep PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 December 2015 14:56

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

If we are truly Christian, we should have true and abiding compassion toward everyone, especially the poor and the needy. But we have to understand that compassion should have a universal coverage. It should not be limited to the sentimental aspects of things, nor to relieving the economic and material needs of people alone.

It should cover the whole range of human needs in their proper order of importance, foremost of which is our need for God. We have to learn to distinguish between the pressing and precious needs of man, and to cope with the tension that sometimes arises in our effort to put these two kinds of needs together.

The material needs of man may be pressing and urgent, but these should not detract us from giving priority attention to the precious spiritual needs of man to relate himself with God and others in true love, irrespective of whether he is rich or poor, a prince or a pauper.

It’s true that looking after the pressing material needs of people can already be an overwhelming task. This should not be attended to on an ad hoc basis alone, giving dole-outs and temporary relief. This has to be given stable and effective solutions, like creating jobs, enabling poor people to find work through education and continuing training, especially considering that the world economy is rapidly evolving, etc.

But over and above this concern is the care of the more important necessity of man—his spiritual life, his relation with God that should be developed according to God’s love and concern for everyone, and thus, his relation with everybody else. Christ himself gave more importance to forgiving sins than to curing the paralytic. (cfr Mk 2,1-12)

In this concern, we have to understand that the poor may not be the one who are economically poor. They can be the richest, the most educated, the most famous and powerful, but who happen to be farthest from God. They can turn out, in that context, to be the poorest of the poor, the lost sheep that have strayed farthest from God.

They pose as the most difficult challenge in our duty to show compassion, to reflect in our life God’s love for all. Are we in the first place aware of this reality? Are we up to the challenge? Do we know how to tackle this problem?

Do we know, for example how to deal with an unbeliever, an atheist or agnostic? Or a smart alecky fellow who actually has great potentials to help but is oblivious of his duty to be concerned with the lives of others?

We have to be wary of the subtle temptation to classify people without knowing how to put them together in one communion as we all ought to be, with God as the principle, end, pattern and power for that communion.

Everyone should be concerned for the common good, both temporal and eternal, material and spiritual, and should know how to work together in solidarity and subsidiarity.

In other words, we might be giving good attention to people of Class D and E, but at the expense of neglecting those of Class A, B and C. Worse, we might be giving help to those of Class D and E but without involving in some organic way those of Class A, B and C.

We have to be wary of falling into the tricks of some ideologies that like to put people in classes and in conflict with one another. While these ideologies have always some good and valid points to offer, we should be quick to recognize when their excesses and extremist doctrines and practices start to emerge.

When we hear nice slogans, like we should be a Church of the Poor and for the Poor, and that we are in some Year of Mercy, let us not forget the proper understanding of what poor really means, and how mercy and compassion should be pursued.

We have to broaden our attitudes, banking them on our faith first of all before taking due considerations of whatever help some ideologies can offer us, whether they are right-leaning or left-leaning, of the capitalist system or the socialist. We have to have a good grasp of the social doctrine of the Church that thanks to God is already quite developed and clear.

We should be wary of things that would stir up our emotions and feelings such that we follow the playbooks of these ideologies that are already detached or even opposed to our faith and true charity. In this, we have to help one another.