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Compassion towards our Neighbour

By Sr Gemma, FOH

“Blessed is the man who bears with his neighbour according to the frailty of his nature as much as he would wish to be borne with by him if he should be in a like case.” -Admonitions of

St Francis

Sometimes I am tempted to think of compassion as something very gentle and fragile, as a friend who listens, nodding to the concerns and difficulties of another, as forgiving every mistake and annoyance caused by someone. The compassion that Francis speaks of here is a different compassion, and it is the one shown to us by Christ. The word compassion comes from Latin, meaning to suffer with someone, and so compassion is a much stronger thing than sympathy. Bearing with the faults of one another is difficult, and does not come spontaneously. It is something that we must choose to do, and to do with passion, that is to say with energy and intentionality. If we consider passion as the Passion, the suffering which Christ underwent for our sake, we have a better idea of what is required of us in loving our brothers and sisters. This compassion requires that we love the other even to the point of our own pain and suffering, as Christ loves us to the Cross. Then we can say that we have compassion on our neighbour.

To understand this better, consider once more the Passion of Christ, and the love he shows for the people he encounters there. All human, they make mistakes, and do not act as perfectly as we would like to think we can. Christ’s Passion is undergone for these very people who only make it more difficult for him. In the same way I must love those I encounter, because of their weaknesses, and my own.

The next time I am faced with a situation where I encounter a person in their weakness, in their failings, can I try to remember that loving them as Christ does is not a matter of sympathizing with their difficulties, but of actually taking part with them in their suffering. My own Passion takes place each day when I choose to love the other to the point of my own pain.


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