The Christian Art of Deep Compassion

01-20-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

Have you noticed that ever so slightly there is more daylight now? Yes, we are at the worst of winter temperatures for the next three weeks, but we are in a better pattern of increasing daylight. As we are all aware, Christmas occurs in the darkest days of winter. Its calendar origin is in its placement at the end of the three-day feast of the old Roman Feast of Lights. As Christ is often referred to as “the light that came into the world”, this celebrationof Christ, the Light in the midst of darkness is most poignant and powerful.

By and large the Christmas season is now over and thus most folks have taken down their lights and put away their special decorations for the season. By the way, the origin of evergreens and trees comes from an old German pagan feast and belief. We have moved on from Christmas in so many ways. Christmas music has left our sound systems and streetscapes. The beautiful noise and joy of Christmas are starting to fade away for us and everyone. Most of us have enjoyed the various moments and parts of Christmas and now are savoring our memories of these past few weeks. We now step along and ahead to the new parts of this coming year 2019. Some us go forth with renewed faith from our spiritual celebration of Christmas these past few weeks, others move ahead and hopefully the days ahead will find other spiritual substance for their lives.

We note that the Gospels of the coming weekends at Mass Sundays direct us during the next many months and lead us on a journey from incarnational (Christmas) time to paschal (Easter) time. If we walk this journey and route, we will have started by standing on the banks of the Jordan as Jesus is baptized and revealed as the Messiah, God’s favored one. We then will be at the wedding reception at Cana, where Jesus performs his first sign of the messianic age, turning water to wine, and where theologians theorize that humanity is wed to divinity. We also will stand and hear clearly Jesus declare himself the fulfillment of the prophets and inspire us to spread the good news. We then will listen to the call of Jesus to the first apostles and make our own personal response for in a strong sense he also is calling us. We, in addition, will listen in profound awe to the beatitudes, the poignant, elegant and powerful language of blessing that turns human viewpoints and expectations inside out. In hearing the Beatitudes, we will come to comprehend how meagerness counts for more than net worth or money, poverty for more than comfort or plenty, and happiness is not equated with self-satisfaction or gratification. We will also learn the graced art—the Christian art—of deep compassion and recognize that vengeance does not belong in the life of those who claim to be followers of Christ. As time wends on each week, we will finally arrive at the gate to Lent: Ash Wednesday.

All these coming Sundays through the end of February set the stage and background for Lent 2019. These weekly scripture lessons constantly remind us that while Jesus comes bringing glad tidings that not everyone is glad to hear them. We, sometimes, may even be shocked by those who resist or misinterpret. Our expectations of people may be changed. Our scriptural verses each week will allow us to look at ourselves and discover our own resistance that we have at times to following Jesus and His Way. The words of scripture will involve us in the story of Jesus and help us recognize that his story is also our story. Like Jesus, we are people on the move each day and we are people with a mission. These coming Sundays take us on our first steps of many steps, then lead us to Lent and also ultimately hold out the promise being with Christ not only in his death on Golgatha, but more importantly with him in His resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Father Brian