The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, celebrated on February 2, offers that precious lesson about humility, a fundamental virtue that engenders and enables us to do a lot of good things, like being compassionate all the way to offering even one’s life for others.
We are reminded of this truth of our faith in the second reading of the Mass of the Feast when from the Letter to the Hebrews it is said that “because he (Christ) himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” (Mk 6,18)
Yes, we would only know how to be truly compassionate all the way with everyone without exception when like Christ we would be willing to suffer all kinds of tests and humiliations. Compassion without these tests and humiliations could not go the distance. It would be a compassion that would highly be conditioned and limited.
We should try our best to follow Christ’s example of emptying himself all the way to the cross. (cfr. Phil 2,6-8) Only then can we truly consider ourselves as “another Christ,” if not “Christ himself” as we should be, since we are patterned after him.
Christ went all the way to make himself like sin without committing sin if only to save us. (2 Cor 5,21) In other words, we should be willing, as one saint articulated it, to go all the way to the gates of hell if only to save a soul.
This kind of attitude would certainly require a tremendous amount of humility, of self-denial, so that the full force of faith, hope and charity, of a compassion that goes all the way, can take place.
We have to be wary of the gripping effect of today’s dominant culture that promotes, both subtly and openly, a lifestyle of self-indulgence. Instead, one deep desire we should have is that of making as some kind of default mode that attitude of always thinking of the others, wishing them well all the time and doing whatever we can to help.
It’s obviously not easy to do, but we can always try. With God’s grace and with our persistent effort, we can little by little and day by day hack it, such that it becomes second nature to us to think and feel for the others. That’s what compassion is all about. We just have to learn to be tough to take on whatever effort is needed. We have to learn to be all things to all men.
Compassion starts in the heart, in our thoughts and desires. In this level, there is no limit in what we can do. Obviously, when we try to translate these prayers, thoughts and desires into action and material things, we can be greatly limited. But insofar as prayers and sacrifices are involved, the possibilities are unlimited.
We need to examine ourselves more deeply to see if indeed we are always thinking, praying and wishing others well. We have to be wary of our tendency to let our thoughts and desired be dictated only by self-interest, usually done in a most subtle but effective way. For this, we have to do regular examination of conscience.
For this, we have to be willing to complicate our life. There surely will be some need for adjustments in our attitudes, in the way we understand things and view different kinds of people. We have to hone up our skills at versatility, which should not only be a matter of theatric performance but rather that of genuine love for God and for souls.*