Compassion

Compassion - Pope Francis     

08.01.18   Holy Mass  Santa Marta     1 Samuel 1: 1-8

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What is it within ourselves that makes us mock and belittle the weakest among us? Many Biblical stories tell of a powerful person humiliating someone weaker and more vulnerable. The devil is behind this type of attitude, because there is no compassion in him.

1 Samuel 1: 1-8: Elkanah, had two wives: Hannah, who was barren, and Peninnah, who had borne him several children. Instead of consoling Hannah, Peninnah scorned and humiliated her on account of her infertility.

Other Biblical stories also tell of scorn towards the weak, as does the story of Abraham’s wives, Hagar and Sarah. The same attitude of scorn and
contempt occurs between men. Goliath ridiculed David. Both Job's and Tobias’ wives belittled their suffering husbands

I ask myself: What is within these people? What is it within ourselves that pushes us to
mock and mistreat others weaker than ourselves? It is understandable when a person resents someone stronger than them, perhaps as a result of envy… but towards the weak? What makes us do that? It is something habitual, as if I needed to ridicule another person in order to feel confident. As if it were a necessity…”

Even among children this happens. When I was young, there was a woman with a mental illness, Angelina, who lived in his neighbourhood. She would walk the streets all day, and people would give her food to eat and clothes. Local children, however, would make fun of her. They would say: “Let’s find Angelina and have some fun”.

How much
evil there is, even in children, that they treat the weak in this way!”

And today we see it constantly in our schools; the phenomenon of
bullying, attacking the weak, because you’re fat or foreign, or because you’re black… Attacking and attacking… Children and young people, too. It wasn’t just Peninnah, Hagar, or the wives of Tobias and Job: even children. This means there is something within us that makes us act aggressively toward the weak.

The desire to destroy another person is the work of
Satan .

Psychologists would probably give another explanation of this desire to destroy another because they are weak, but, I believe it is a consequence of Original Sin. This is the work of Satan. Satan, has no compassion.

And so, when we already have a good desire to do a good act, like an act of charity, we say ‘It’s the Holy Spirit inspiring me to do this’. And when we realize we harbour within ourselves the desire to attack someone because they are weak, we have no doubt: It is the devil. Because attacking the weak is the work of Satan.

Finally, let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of God’s compassion. He is the One who has compassion on us and helps us to move forward.


Pope Francis 22.07.18    Angelus, St Peter's Square       Mark 6: 30-34
Pope Francis  22.07.18  Compassion
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Gospel passage (Mk 6:30-34) tells us that after their first mission, the Apostles returned to Jesus and told him “all that they had done and taught” (v. 30). After the experience of the mission, which was undoubtedly thrilling but also arduous, they needed to rest. And understanding this well, Jesus wished to give them some relief and said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest for a while” (v. 31). But Jesus’ intention could not be fulfilled this time because the crowd, guessing the location of the lonely place where he would take the disciples by boat, ran there and got there ahead of them.

The same can happen today. At times we are not able to complete our projects because something urgent and unexpected occurs, disrupting our plans and [this] requires flexibility and being available to the needs of others.

In these situations, we are called to imitate what Jesus did: “As he landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (v. 34). With this brief sentence, the Evangelist offers us a flash of singular intensity, taking a snapshot of the eyes of the divine Master and his teaching. Let us observe the three verbs in this frame: to see, to have compassion, to teach. We can call them the Shepherd’s verbs. The gaze of Jesus is not a neutral one — or worse, a cold and detached one because Jesus always looks with the eyes of the heart. And his heart is so tender and filled with compassion, that he is able to understand even the most hidden needs of people. Moreover, his compassion does not simply suggest an emotional response toward people in situations of distress. It is much more. It is God’s attitude and predisposition toward mankind and its history. Jesus appears as the fulfilment of God’s concern and care for his people.

Because Jesus was moved when he saw all those people in need of guidance and help, we would now expect him to perform some miracles. Instead, he began teaching them many things. This is the first bread that the Messiah offers to the starving and lost crowd; the bread of the Word. We all need the Word of truth to guide and illuminate our way. Without the truth which is Christ himself, it is not possible to find the right direction in life. When we distance ourselves from Jesus and his love, we become lost and life is transformed into disappointment and dissatisfaction. With Jesus by our side, we can proceed with confidence and overcome all trials, advancing in love toward God and neighbour. Jesus gave himself for others, thus becoming an example of love and service for each of us.

May Mary Most Holy help us to bear the problems, suffering and difficulties of our neighbours with an attitude of sharing and service.



Pope Francis        18.09.18  Holy Mass  Santa Marta         Luke 7: 11-17
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Pastors imitate Jesus in being near to people, not near to the powerful or ideologues whom, “poison souls”.

What gave Jesus
authority,  was that “he spent most of his time on the road”, touching, embracing, listening and looking at the people in the eye. “He was near them”. This is what gave him authority.

Jesus taught the same thing that many others taught. It was how he taught that was different. Jesus was
meek, and did not cry out. He did not punish the people. He never trumpeted the fact that he was the Messiah or a Prophet. In the Gospel, when Jesus was not with people, he was with the Father praying. His meekness toward the Father was expressed when he visited the house of his Father which had become a shopping mall…. He was angry and threw everyone out. He did this because he loved the Father, because he was humble before the Father.

Jesus was overcome with
compassion for the widow. Jesus “thought with his heart”, which was not separated from his head. Then Jesus tenderly touches her and speaks to her, “Do not weep”. “This is the icon of the pastor”. The pastor “needs to have the power and authority that Jesus had, that humility, that meekness, that nearness, the capacity to be compassionate and tender.

it was also the people who yelled “crucify him”. Jesus then compassionately remained silent because “the people were deceived by the powerful”. His response was silence and prayer. Here the shepherd chooses silence when the “Great Accuser” accuses him through so many people. Jesus suffers, offers his life, and prays.

That prayer carried him even to the Cross, with strength; even there he had the capacity of drawing near to and healing the soul of the repentant thief.



Pope Francis       08.10.18   Holy Mass  Santa Marta           Luke 10: 25-37
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"Who is my neighbour ?"
The brigands who "beat the man", leaving him half dead "; the priest who when he saw the wounded man "passed by", without taking into account his mission, thinking only of the imminent "hour of Mass". So did the Levite, "a cultured man of the Law". Dwell on “passing by", a concept which must enter our hearts today. It is that of two "officials" who, consistent with being  who they are, said: "it is not for me" to help the injured person. On the contrary, those who "do not pass by" are the Samaritan, "who was a sinner, one excommunicated by the people of Israel": the "greatest sinner. He had compassion. Perhaps he was a merchant who was traveling for business, too.

He did not look at his watch,  did not think about blood. He came close to him - he got off his donkey - he tied his wounds, pouring oil and wine. He got his hands dirty, got his clothes dirty. Then he loaded him on his mount, took him to a hotel, all dirty ... blood ... And so he had to get there. And he took care of him. He did not say: "But, I’ll leave him here, call the doctors who’ll come. I'm leaving, I've done my part. " No. He took care,  saying: "Now you are mine, not for a possession, but to serve you". He was not an official, he was a man with a heart, a man with an open heart.

The innkeeper was stunned to see a foreigner, a pagan - so we say - because he was not of the people of Israel who stopped to rescue the man, paying two denari and promising to pay any expenses on his return. The innkeeper does not doubt that he will receive what is owed, adds, it is the reaction of one who lives a testimony, one open to the surprises of God, just like the Samaritan.

Both were not officials. "Are you a Christian? Are you Christian? ". "Yes, yes, yes, I go on Sundays to Mass and I try to do the right thing ... less talk, because I always like to talk, but the rest I do well". Are you open? Are you open to God's surprises or are you a Christian official, closed? "I do this, I go to Mass on Sunday, Communion, Confession once a year, this, this ... I am up standing". These are the Christian officials, those who are not open to the surprises of God, those who know so much about God but do not meet God. Those who never enter into amazement before a testimony. On the contrary: they are incapable of giving witness.

I therefore, urge everyone, "laymen and pastors", to ask ourselves if we are Christians open to what the Lord gives us every day, to the surprises of God that often, like this Samaritan, makes things difficult for us, or are we a Christian official, doing what we have to, feeling that we abide by "the rules" and then being constrained by the same rules. Some ancient theologians, said that in this passage "the whole Gospel" is contained.

Each of us is the man there, wounded, and the Samaritan is Jesus. And he healed our wounds. He drew near to us. He took care of us. He paid for us. And he said to his Church: "But if you need more, you pay, I will come back and I will pay". Think about this: in this passage there is the whole Gospel.


Pope Francis      08.01.19  Holy Mass,  Santa Marta    1 John 4: 7-10    Mark 6: 34-44 
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The Apostle John explains how God manifests His love in us. "Let us love one another, because love is of God,” John writes.

This is the mystery of love: “God loved us first. He took the first step.” God loved us even though we don’t know how to love and need God’s caresses in order to love.

This first step God takes is His Son. He sent Him to save us and to give meaning to our lives and to renew and recreate us.
Jesus fed the crowd out of compassion.

God’s heart, Jesus’ heart, was moved when he saw these people, and he could not remain indifferent. Love is restless. Love does not tolerate indifference; love is compassionate. But love means putting your heart on the line for others; it means showing mercy.

Jesus taught them and the people many things, but they grew bored, because Jesus always said the same things.

As Jesus teaches with love and compassion, maybe they began to talk amongst themselves. They start to check their watches, saying “It’s getting late.”

Mark 6: “But Master, this is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” They basically wanted the people to work it out themselves. But we can be sure that they surely had enough bread for themselves, and they wanted to keep it. This is indifference.

The disciples were not interested in the people. Jesus was interested, because he cared for them. They weren’t evil, just indifferent. They didn’t know what it meant to love. They didn’t know how to show compassion. They didn’t know what indifference was. They had to sin, betray the Master, and abandon him in order to understand the core of compassion and mercy. And Jesus’ response cuts deep: ‘Give them some food yourselves.’ Take their plight upon yourselves. This is the struggle between the compassion of Jesus and indifference, which is always repeated throughout history. Many people who are good, but don’t understand the needs of others, are incapable of compassion. They are good people, maybe because the love of God has not entered into their heart or they have not let it enter.

There is a photo hung on the wall of the Office of Papal Charities. It was a picture taken by a local man who offered it to the Papal Almoner. Daniel Garofani, now a photographer for the Osservatore Romano, took the photo after distributing food with Cardinal Krajewski to homeless people. It shows well-dressed people leaving a restaurant in Rome as a homeless woman lifts her hand to beg for alms. The picture was taken just as the people looked away, so that their gaze would not meet that of the homeless woman. This is the culture of indifference. That’s what the Apostles did.

God’s love always comes first and is compassionate and merciful. It is true that the opposite of love is hate, but that many people are not aware of a conscious hate.

The more-common opposite of the love of God – of God’s compassion – is indifference. ‘I’m satisfied; I lack nothing. I have everything. I’ve assured my place in this life and the next, since I go to Mass every Sunday. I’m a good Christian. But leaving the restaurant, I look the other way.’ Let’s reflect on this: Confronted with God who takes the first step, is compassionate, and is merciful, many times our attitude is indifference. Let us pray to the Lord that He heal humanity, starting with us. May my heart be healed from the sickness of the culture of indifference.


     
Pope Francis 31.03.19  Morocco

“While he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Lk 15:20).

Here the Gospel takes us to the heart of the parable, showing the father’s response at seeing the return of his son. Deeply moved, he runs out to meet him before he can even reach home. A son long awaited. A father rejoicing to see him return.

That was not the only time the father ran. His joy would not be complete without the presence of his other son. He then sets out to find him and invites him to join in the festivities (cf. v. 28). But the older son appeared upset by the homecoming celebration. He found his father’s joy hard to take; he did not acknowledge the return of his brother: “that son of yours”, he calls him (v. 30). For him, his brother was still lost, because he had already lost him in his heart.

By his unwillingness to take part in the celebration, the older son fails not only to recognize his brother, but his father as well. He would rather be an orphan than a brother. He prefers isolation to encounter, bitterness to rejoicing. Not only is he unable to understand or forgive his brother, he cannot accept a father capable of forgiving, willing to wait patiently, to trust and to keep looking, lest anyone be left out. In a word, a father capable of compassion.

At the threshold of that home, something of the mystery of our humanity appears. On the one hand, celebration for the son who was lost and is found; on the other, a feeling of betrayal and indignation at the celebrations marking his return. On the one hand, the welcome given to the son who had experienced misery and pain, even to the point of yearning to eat the husks thrown to the swine; on the other, irritation and anger at the embrace given to one who had proved himself so unworthy.

What we see here yet again is the tension we experience in our societies and in our communities, and even in our own hearts. A tension deep within us ever since the time of Cain and Abel. We are called to confront it and see it for what it is. For we too ask: “Who has the right to stay among us, to take a place at our tables and in our meetings, in our activities and concerns, in our squares and our cities?” The murderous question seems constantly to return: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf. Gen 4:9).

At the threshold of that home, we can see our own divisions and strife, the aggressiveness and conflicts that always lurk at the door of our high ideals, our efforts to build a society of fraternity, where each person can experience even now the dignity of being a son or daughter.

Yet at the threshold of that home, we will also see in all its radiant clarity, with no ifs and buts, the father’s desire that all his sons and daughters should share in his joy. That no one should have to live in inhuman conditions, as his younger son did, or as orphaned, aloof and bitter like the older son. His heart wants all men and women to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).

It is true that many situations can foment division and strife, while others can bring us to confrontation and antagonism. It cannot be denied. Often we are tempted to believe that
hatred and revenge are legitimate ways of ensuring quick and effective justice. Yet experience tells us that hatred, division and revenge succeed only in killing our peoples’ soul, poisoning our children’s hopes, and destroying and sweeping away everything we cherish.

Jesus invites us, then, to stop and contemplate the heart of our Father. Only from that perspective can we acknowledge once more that we are brothers and sisters. Only against that vast horizon can we transcend our short-sighted and divisive ways of thinking, and see things in a way that does not downplay our differences in the name of a forced unity or a quiet marginalization. Only if we can raise our eyes to heaven each day and say “Our Father”, will we be able to be part of a process that can make us see things clearly and risk living no longer as enemies but as brothers and sisters.

“All that is mine is yours” (Lk 15:31), says the father to his older son. He is not speaking so much about material wealth, as about sharing in his own
love and own compassion. This is the greatest legacy and wealth of a Christian. Instead of measuring ourselves or classifying ourselves according to different moral, social, ethnic or religious criteria, we should be able to recognize that another criterion exists, one that no one can take away or destroy because it is pure gift. It is the realization that we are beloved sons and daughters, whom the Father awaits and celebrates.

“All that is mine is yours”, says the Father, including my capacity for compassion. Let us not fall into the temptation of reducing the fact that we are his children to a question of rules and regulations, duties and observances. Our identity and our mission will not arise from forms of voluntarism, legalism, relativism or fundamentalism, but rather from being believers who daily beg with humility and perseverance: “May your Kingdom come!”

The Gospel parable leaves us with an open ending. We see the father asking the older son to come in and share in the celebration of mercy. The Gospel writer says nothing about what the son decided. Did he join the party? We can imagine that this open ending is meant to be written by each individual and every community. We can complete it by the way we live, the way we regard others, and how we treat our neighbour. The Christian knows that in the Father’s house there are many rooms: the only ones who remain outside are those who choose not to share in his joy.

Dear brothers and dear sisters, I want to thank you for the way in which you bear witness to the Gospel of mercy in this land. Thank you for your efforts to make each of your communities an oasis of mercy. I encourage you to continue to let the culture of mercy grow, a culture in which no one looks at others with indifference, or averts his eyes in the face of their suffering (cf.
Misericordia et Misera, 20). Keep close to the little ones and the poor, and to all those who are rejected, abandoned and ignored. Continue to be a sign of the Father’s loving embrace.

May the Merciful and Compassionate One – as our Muslim brothers and sisters frequently invoke him – strengthen you and make your works of love ever more fruitful.




Pope Francis    14.07.19   Angelus, St Peter's Square, Rome    15th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C    Luke 10: 25-37 

Pope Francis  Angelus - Good Samaritan 14.07.19

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today's Gospel recounts the famous parable of the
good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10: 25-37 ). Asked by a scholar of the law about what to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus invites him to find the answer in the Scriptures which say: "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind , and your neighbour as yourself "(v. 27). However, there were different interpretations about who was understood to be our neighbour. In fact that the man continues by asking: "and who is my neighbour?" (v. 29). At this point, Jesus answers with the parable, this beautiful parable: I invite all of you to pick up the Gospel today, the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10, verse 25. It is one of the most beautiful Gospel parables. And this parable has become a paradigm of Christian life. It has become the model of how a Christian should act. Thanks to the evangelist Luke, we have this treasure.

The protagonist of the short story is a Samaritan, who comes across a man along his path who has been striped and beaten by robbers and takes care of him. We know that the Jews treated the Samaritans with contempt, considering them strangers to the chosen people. So It is no coincidence that Jesus chooses a Samaritan as a positive character in the parable. In this way he wants to overcome prejudice, and show that even a foreigner, even one who does not know the true God and does not attend His temple, is capable of behaving according to His will, feeling
compassion for his brother in need and helping him with all means at its disposal.

Before the Samaritan on that same road, a priest and a Levite had come across the man. They were people dedicated to the worship of God. However, seeing the poor man on the ground, they went ahead without stopping, probably so as not to contaminate themselves with his blood. They had given precedence to a human rule – not to become contaminated by human blood – to the law God's great commandment that wants
mercy above all.

Jesus, therefore, holds up the Samaritan as a model, a person who did not have faith! Many times we look at other people that we might know, we might label them as agnostic, yet they do good. Jesus choses as a model someone who is not a man of faith. And this man, by
loving his brother as himself, shows that he loves God with all his heart and with all his strength – a God that he did not know! – and at the same time expresses true religiosity and full humanity.

After telling this beautiful parable, Jesus turns back to the scholar of the law who had asked him "who is my neighbour?", and says to him: "which one of these three was neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?» (v. 36). In this way He reverses the question of his interlocutor, and also our own logic. He helps us understand that it is not us on the basis of our criteria who defines who is neighbour and who is not, but rather the person in need who must be able to recognize who is his neighbour, that is, "the one who treated him with mercy" (v. 37). Being able to have compassion: this is key. This is our key. If you face a person in need and do not feel compassion, if your heart is not moved, it means that something is wrong. Be careful, be careful. Do not allow ourselves to be overcome by selfish insensitivity. The capacity of mercy has become the rock of a Christian, or rather of Jesus ' teaching. Jesus himself is the Father's compassion and mercy toward us. If you go down the street and see a homeless man lying there and walk without looking at him or think, "He is drunk, he is this way because he drinks ". We need to ask ourselves not is the person drunk, but ask yourself if your heart is hard, if your heart has become like ice. This conclusion of Jesus tells us that mercy towards a human life in need is the true face of love. That's how you become true disciples of Jesus and reveals the face of the Father's: "be merciful, as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6.36). And God, our father, is merciful, because he has compassion; He is capable of having this compassion, of drawing near to us, to our sorrow, to our sin, to our defects and also to our miseries.

May the Virgin Mary help us to understand and above all to increasingly live that inseparable
bond that exists between our love for God and a concrete and generous love for our brothers and sisters, and may she give us the grace to have compassion and to grow in compassion.




Pope Francis   17.09.09   Holy Mass, Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)     Luke 7: 11-17
Pope Francis 17.09.19 Santa Marta

Compassion is like "the lens of the heart" that makes us understand the dimensions of reality, it is also the language of God, whereas so often human language is indifference.

Open your hearts to compassion and do not to close yourselves in indifference. Compassion, in fact, takes us on the path of true justice, thus saving us from closure in ourselves. 

Luke's Gospel of today's liturgy (Luke 7: 11-17) 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 but that "the Lord was moved with compassion," as if he had been overwhelmed with the sentiment.

There was the crowd that followed him, there were the people accompanying that woman but Jesus sees his reality: she is alone, she is a widow, she has lost her only child. It is compassion, in fact, that makes us understand reality deeply.

Compassion allows you to see reality; compassion is like the lens of the heart: it really makes us to take in and understand the true dimensions. In the Gospels, Jesus is often moved by compassion. And compassion is also God's language.

Compassion makes its appearance in the Bible long before the arrival of Christ: it was God who said to Moses, "I have witnessed the pain 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. It was compassion that moved Him to send His son to us. Compassion is the language of God. 

Compassion is not a feeling of pity, a sentiment one would feel for example when seeing a dog die on the road. But it is getting involved in the problems of others.

In the parable of the multiplication of the loaves Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd that followed him, whereas they wanted to dismiss those present and send them off to buy something to eat themselves. The disciples were prudent. I believe that at that moment Jesus was angry, in his heart, considering the answer "Give them food!" His invitation is to take charge of the people, without thinking that after a day or so they could go to the villages to buy bread.

The Lord had compassion because he saw these people as sheep without a shepherd. The Gospel speaks, on the 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 these people to get on with it:

If compassion is the language of God, so often human language is that of indifference.

One of our photographers, from the Roman Observer, took a picture that is now in the Hemosineria, which is called "Indifference". I've talked about this before. One winter night, in front of a luxury restaurant, a lady who lives on the street reaches out to another well dressed lady who comes out from the restaurant, and this other lady looks the other way. That is indifference. Go and look at that photograph: this is indifference. Our indifference. 

We must ask ourselves "How many times do we look away...?" By doing so we close the door to compassion. Can we examine our conscience and ask ourselves "Do I habitually look somewhere else? Or do I let the Holy Spirit lead me on the path of compassion? That it is a virtue of God.

I am touched by the words from todays Gospel when Jesus says to this mother "Do not weep". A caress of compassion. Jesus touches the coffin, telling the young man to stand up. Then, the young man sits down and starts talking. "And Jesus returned him to his mother."

He returned him: an act of justice. This word is used in justice: to give back.

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 self-closure. Let us continue with this word: "The Lord was taken with great compassion". May He also have compassion for each of us: We need it.




Pope Francis            05.10.19  Creation of New Cardinals,  Vatican Basilica             Mark 6: 30-37
Pope Francis 05.10.19

At the heart of the Gospel we have just heard (Mk 6:30-37) is the “compassion” of Jesus (cf. v. 34). Compassion is a key word in the Gospel. It is written in Christ’s heart; it is forever written in the heart of God.

In the Gospels, we often see Jesus’ compassion for those who are suffering. The more we read, the more we contemplate, the more we come to realize that the Lord’s compassion is not an occasional, sporadic emotion, but is steadfast and indeed seems to be the attitude of his heart, in which God’s mercy is made incarnate.

Mark, for example, tells us that when Jesus first passed through Galilee preaching and casting out demons, “a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean’. Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’” (1:40-42). In this gesture and with these words, we see the mission of Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind. He is a compassionate Redeemer. He incarnates God’s will to purify men and women afflicted by the scourge of sin; he is “the outstretched hand of God”, who touches our sickly flesh and accomplishes this work by bridging the chasm of separation.

Jesus goes out in search of the outcast, those without hope. People like the man paralyzed for thirty-eight years who lay beside the pool of Bethzatha, waiting in vain for someone to bring him to the waters (cf. Jn 5:1-9).

This compassion did not appear suddenly at one moment in the history of salvation. No, it was always there in God, impressed on his paternal heart. Let us think about the account of the calling of Moses, for example, when God spoke from the burning bush and said: “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry… indeed, I know their sufferings” (Ex 3:7). This is the compassion of the Father!

God’s love for his people is drenched with compassion, to the extent that, in this covenant relationship, what is divine is compassionate, while, sad to say, it appears that what is human is so often lacking in compassion. God himself says so: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? ... My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender… For I am God and no mortal, the holy one in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (Hos 11:8-9).

Jesus’ disciples often show themselves lacking compassion, as in this case, when they are faced with the problem of having to feed the crowds. In effect, they say: “Let them worry about it themselves…” This is a common attitude among us human beings, even those of us who are religious persons or even religious “professionals”. We wash our hands of it. The position we occupy is not enough to make us compassionate, as we see in the conduct of the priest and Levite who, seeing a dying man on the side of the road, pass to the other side (cf. Lk 10:31-32). They would have thought: “It’s not up to me”. There are always excuses and justifications for looking the other way. And when a man of the Church becomes a mere functionary, the result is even more sour. There are always justifications; at times they are even codified and give rise to “institutional disregard”, as was the case with lepers: “Of course, they have to keep their distance; that is the right thing to do”. That was the way of thinking and it still is. This all too human attitude also generates structures lacking compassion.

At this point we can ask ourselves: are we conscious – we, in the first place – of having been the object of God’s compassion? In a particular way, I ask this of you, brother cardinals and those about to become cardinals: do you have a lively awareness of always having been preceded and accompanied by his mercy? This awareness was always present in the immaculate heart of the Virgin Mary, who praises God as her “Saviour”, for he “looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant” (Lk 1:48).

I find it helpful to see myself reflected in the passage of Ezekiel 16 that speaks of God’s love for Jerusalem. It concludes with the words: “I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, in order that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I forgive you all that you have done” (Ezek 16:62-63). Or again, in that other prophecy of Hosea: “I will bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her… There shall she respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt (2:14-15). We can ask ourselves: Do I feel God’s compassion towards me? Do I sense in me the conviction of being a son of compassion?

Do we have a lively awareness of this compassion that God feels for us? It is not something optional, or a kind of “evangelical counsel”. No, it is essential. Unless I feel that I am the object of God’s compassion, I cannot understand his love. This is not a reality that can be explained. Either I feel it or I don’t. If I don’t feel it, how can I share it, bear witness to it, bestow it on others? Perhaps, I am not able to do this. Concretely: am I compassionate towards this or that brother or sister, that bishop, that priest? … Or do I constantly tear them down by my attitude of condemnation, of indifference, of looking the other way and actually washing my hands of it?

On this lively awareness also depends, for all of us, the ability to be loyal in our own ministry. This also holds true for you, brother cardinals. The word “compassion” came to my mind right from the moment I started writing my letter to you of 1 September. The readiness of a cardinal to shed his own blood – as signified by the scarlet colour of your robes – is secure if it is rooted in this awareness of having been shown compassion and in the ability to show compassion in turn. Otherwise, one cannot be loyal. So many disloyal actions on the part of ecclesiastics are born of the lack of a sense of having been shown compassion, and by the habit of averting one’s gaze, the habit of indifference. Today, let us implore, through the intercession of the apostle Peter, the grace to have a compassionate heart, in order to be witnesses of the One who loved and still loves us and who has looked with favour upon us, who chose us, consecrated us and sent us to bring to everyone his Gospel of salvation.