Tag Archives: Compassion

Imitating the Gaze of Jesus

I used to be (and unfortunately, still am at times) a rather obnoxious Catholic. Fueled by my enthusiasm for Truth — and wanting affirmation of my knowledge — I would loudly proclaim Church teachings urgently, so that other people would no longer live in error. Particularly in a culture of moral relativism and a “do what makes you happy” environment, wanting to immediately step onto a doctrine-blasting soapbox seemed like a good thing to me. Yet, the more I examined my life, heart, and ever-abundant pride, the more I realized that I was going about evangelization in the wrong manner. As I began to read Scriptures more and more, I began to really notice how Jesus interacts with other people.

“Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned,* like sheep without a shepherd.” ~Matt 9:35-36

Jesus’ heart was moved with pity. In Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus encounters a rich young man, we learn that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mk 10:21). Time and time again, we see that Jesus is moved with love, and pity for the people he meets-and he lets this compassion flow into the interactions he has. He looks at these men and women intently and listens to them. 

As I reflect on the actions of Jesus, I feel challenged. Even when people were living in sin, he didn’t immediately jump onto a moral high horse. First, he looked upon them with love. In our current culture, Jesus’ approach may not seem to initially be challenging — after all, we are living in an age that is all about acceptance and affirmation. “Just love people for who they are and accept them” is a common refrain.  How dare we criticize sinful actions! After all, aren’t we supposed to be like Jesus, who looked on others with love?

Yet, while Jesus looked on people with love, compassion, and pity, he never affirmed the sinful choices and lifestyles that pushed people away from God. The story of the woman who was caught in adultery (recorded in the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel) is fairly well-known and loved, so let’s look at that for a moment. When Jesus encounters this woman, does he say “Woman, I just want to love and accept you; you need to do what makes you feel happy“? No, he does not. Instead, Jesus says: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more” (Jn 8:11). He looks upon the woman, loves her, listens to her, and invites her to become transformed and change her life. 

This is what really challenges me as I reflect on the words and actions of Jesus.  It would be fairly easy for me to, upon meeting another person, jump into an attitude of “I will preach doctrine at you because you’re living in sin and I know better.” I’ve done this far too many times as I’ve sought to fuel my pride and be known as the person who was instrumental in another individual’s conversion. It would also be convenient to fall onto the other end of the spectrum and embrace the all-too-common attitude of moral relativism that’s sweeping our culture.

Instead of these extreme approaches, I’m trying to imitate what Jesus does — and this is hard for me. I’m holding my tongue more and first listening to the stories of the people I meet. I’m seeking to encounter others with an open heart. I’m trying to walk into conversations without the expectation that I’ll convince another person of a certain teaching or doctrine. I’m trying to slow myself down and actually form relationships and build bridges of communication with other people. I’m striving to be more open to the Holy Spirit, and while I don’t back down from my convictions, I’m seeking to gaze at other men and women with God’s love and compassion.

I often fail at this. Sometimes, I should be quicker to speak up about my beliefs, but I’m silent. Other times, I should probably remain silent instead of speaking up in a rather harsh manner! I’m an imperfect evangelizer, but I’ll keep praying and try to let God use me in whatever small ways he can.

Photo Credit: “People” by MabelAmber via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain. 

2 Sides of the Same Coin: The Annunciation & The Agony

A while back, I published a meditation on the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. In revisiting that piece recently, having just prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries, I was struck by the parallels of many of the mysteries. The approach of God to ask for something important, the “fiat” of both Jesus and Mary, the journeys they both undertake immediately afterward, and the birth of Christ into life – Earthly, and later, Heavenly.

However, today I want to focus specifically on the Agony in the Garden and the Annunciation. It seems fitting to me that the Agony would be the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries not solely because it marks the beginning of Our Lord’s passion. The Agony in the Garden perfectly mirrors, or parallels, the Annunciation in the joyful mysteries.

In the Agony, Christ is faced with God asking to use Christ’s body to accomplish His salvific work. Christ must decide to say yes or no, just as Mary was asked by God to use her body and had to say yes or no. Just as Mary, conceived without sin, would of course say yes, so too we know that Christ will of course submit Himself to the will of the Father.

Yet this almost makes the experience worse. In meditating on Agony, we are the audience observing a Greek Drama. We see the end, we are helpless to stop it, and we know it must happen. (We are blessed in a way that Greek Dramas aren’t in that we know that the end is really the most wonderful end there could be, but the process of getting there is pretty hard to take in. Go re-watch The Passion if you need a reminder!). By meditating on the Agony, we begin to see those places where the Lord is asking something painful and necessary of us. In reflecting on Christ’s words: “let this cup pass from me” we all feel vindicated in not wanting to assent to the Lord’s will. In the next breath, however, we learn to assent to God as Christ said “yet not my will, but yours.”

Now, the Annunciation was a joyful and heartfelt yes that resulted in a physical experience of God in our lives. Christ was made incarnate in Mary’s womb. When we say “yes” to God the first time it is often a very physical experience. We feel joyful and excited to get to know God!

However, in the “yes” of the Agony, we experience a loss of God. While the Lord is still with us, He removes Himself so drastically that all we experience is the strength to continue, something we are often unaware of. Christ suffered the extreme separation of Himself from His Heavenly Father, which we see in His cry on the cross – “My God, why have you forsaken me?” – yet we know that the Lord provided Him the physical strength to continue through the Passion.

Indeed, the Lord was so close to Christ throughout the Passion, providing heavenly strength to continue, that Christ could not see Him! So the same may be true of us. When we accept the Lord’s plan and feel abandoned in the process, we are closer to Him than ever before. Even when we feel the most abandoned, or the most confused (“I said yes and now everything is terrible”), we can know that it is not the feelings of closeness that bring us close to God, but the faith that He will not abandon us even in times when we are alone with our cross.

We also see in the Agony in the Garden the maturation of the spiritual life. The Joyful mysteries take place before the Sorrowful mysteries.

Annunciation before Agony.passion

Joy before pain.

So too, the annunciation of our own lives often occurs before an agony experience. When we first encounter the Lord, it is a joyful and exciting occurrence, if a little scary. Only when our spiritual life has matured and we are intimate with the Lord, does He ask for “everything” in our own Agony in the Garden.

Yet, the two are not separate experiences. Every Annunciation comes with an Agony. The Agony in the Garden is simply the other side of the “Annunciation coin.” Just as God eternally presents Himself to us in an on-going annunciation, continually asking to be made present in our lives, so too He is eternally asking us to sacrifice everything for love of Him and His people.

Mary knew what she was getting into when she said “yes” in her garden. She knew her child was coming to save His people, and that meant a pretty painful end. Yet there was joy in embracing the Lord’s plan, a joy so great that there is a whole set of mysteries devoted solely to that virtue. So too, when the Agony in the Garden is presented to us, and we meditate on our own “Agony experience,” we can trust that the other side of that painful, lonely, agonizing, torturous decision is the hidden joy of the Annunciation and the promise of God made manifest in our lives.

What Can a Husband Do?

Across the internet pond, Calah, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth have created a much needed conversation about mothering life and community.  When a part of the body of Christ is suffering, all feel the wound.  It hurts to read Calah’s words of sorrow and pain.  Chin-up sister, we are here to support you.

Men struggle with a number of things.  We fight the temptations, sometimes we fail, sometimes we battle and succeed but only succeed with the help of grace from a Father that loves us.  When we fall, He gives us the grace to get back in the game and continues to love us.  We are truly blessed to be children of God!  I take tremendous comfort in knowing that the Father sees us struggle, offers His divine love, and His divine mercy in the case that we fall short.

I think it is common trait of men in general and husbands in particular to want to fix things.  We are good at it too.  We climb under sinks and cars, tighten hinges, and build complex toys and house furniture.  Sometimes men need help with fixing people though, especially when the emotions are involved.  Sometimes we need help offering our wives compassion.

If our wives are going through a rough time, what are some good responses that a husband can do to be compassionate with their bride?  How can we suffer with you so that we can carry this cross together?