Developing a compassionate heart

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

IT is said that when Christ saw a big crowd as he disembarked from boat, he was moved to pity and started to preach, cure the sick and even feed them with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish which he miraculously multiplied to the utter consternation of the disciples who witnessed the whole thing. (cfr. Mt 14,13-21)

If we have to be like Christ as we should, then we have to develop a heart like his, full of compassion and willing to extend whatever help we can, especially giving both the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that many people are in need of.

We have to be wary of our tendency not to complicate our life by keeping to ourselves instead of getting involved in a positive way in the lives of others. We may think that that is the better thing to do for us, but that way of acting fails to see the whole picture of how complicating our life by helping others would actually benefit us greatly.

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. This was what Christ was showing us all his life here on earth.

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.

Compassion should not be exclusively associated with the sweet and tender moments of pity, sympathy and empathy. It demands sacrifice and self-denial which we should be willing to give.

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.

We have to learn how to flow with the times whose developments are getting more rapid and more varied. We should learn to be very discerning, knowing how to identify and derive anything good that is in any person, situation, ideology, etc., but knowing also their defects, errors, limitations so as not to be trapped by them.