A college student was bragging to her friends about taking a first-aid course that had prepared her for any emergency. She gave this example: “The other day, I saw a woman walking in front of me get hit by a car. She broke her arm and the broken bone was sticking outside her skin; she had a twisted knee, a fractured skull, and she was bleeding all over the place.” “How terrible” her friends gasped! “What did you do?” “Well, thanks to my first-aid training, I knew just what to do! I sat down on the curb and I put my head between my legs so I wouldn't faint.”
No need to guess who is number one in that college student's life! Everything revolved around her! In today's Gospel, Jesus gives us a different view of what's really important. He says if we really want to be happy and lead meaningful lives, we must love God with our whole being, and love each other just as we love ourselves.
We've heard these words a thousand times. We know them by heart. We understand love is the key to life! Yet the question remains: How best do we love our neighbor? How do we disentangle ourselves from our own agenda, from our personal needs and wants, from our selfishness and prejudice, to have the will and clarity of mind to love wisely and well?
Perhaps the word compassion will answer the question and point the way. Compassion means “to feel with...” and there's the answer. We need to consider what others are experiencing, the pain they are in, the losses and frustrations they are enduring. That means we put aside our own needs and wants for a time to consider honestly and deeply the physical, emotional and spiritual sufferings of others, of our family members, of our friends, even of strangers and enemies!
It's amazing how differently things look and feel from inside the hurting minds and hearts of other people. Some problems look bigger. Some look smaller. Some problems disappear. There are dark and scary places in the minds and hearts of those who are hurting. There are horrendous wounds hidden behind locked doors, but there are some marvelous, beautiful secret gardens there as well. We have to take the time and make the effort to look inside others, as Jesus did, to be compassionate – as Jesus was!
Who would have thought that was all there was to truly loving our neighbor as we love ourselves? Simply being compassionate! When we begin to see what's in our brother's heart and view the world through our sister's eyes, then we begin to understand their deeply human needs and can offer help to relieve their pain and suffering. We begin to recognize what love demands from us here and now. We become compassionate. We walk alongside Jesus who on every page of the Gospel demonstrates compassion in word and deed to the needy and vulnerable.
So with bowed heads, we pray: O Gracious One, give us hearts of compassion, hearts that understand wisely, hearts that are large, wide and welcoming of all created in Your image and likeness. Help us learn to give without counting the cost and to forgive without condition. We ask this in the name of the compassionate One, Jesus of Nazareth, your Son and our brother. Amen!