JUSTICE AND COMPASSION – IMPORTANT
ELEMENTS OF OUR SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION
By Sr. Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican
Today, many people are asking about the
meaning and importance of compassion in our lives. Recently, I was
invited to share with an interfaith group on the subject of
compassion. It is very timely because most major religions of the
world all speak about the divine, about God as a God of compassion
and they stress the need to live and practice compassion in our
daily lives. It is a virtue that is badly needed in today’s world
that values competition and power and greed over compassion. In the
Gospels, Jesus said: "Be compassionate is your heavenly Father is
How do I understand compassion?
Literally it means to suffer with, to be with people when and where
they suffer and to willingly enter into their struggle, weakness and
pain, to let it get inside of us and compel us to make a
compassionate response. One example comes to mind that worked in our
area. It started three decades ago when we had very high
unemployment in Racine. Families of the unemployed came together
monthly and shared their pain. Often at meetings, parents would be
weeping because their children who were ill could not get needed
care. After one of the meetings, a few of us got together and agreed
that this situation could not go on. We convened a group of local
people and explored the possibility of making something happen. We
got an amazing response. The hospital offered their services, a
local church offered space, some health care providers offered free
health care and the State of Wisconsin agreed to provide liability
coverage for those who would serve in the free clinic. Thirty years
later, 350 volunteer providers serve in the clinic known as the
Health Care Network which is still booming. In one year, over 10,000
appointments were provided for medical and dental care. It has been
a blessing to many over the years. Thanks to the original group that
allowed the pain to enter their hearts and they called forth a
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF COMPASSION?
It is a call to enter into the
pain and suffering of those in need, to be with them in
their cry for help and to enable them to articulate what
would be helpful to them.
Enter deeply within ourselves
and get in touch with the God of compassion who is the one
who will work through us as we respond to the needs of those
around us. Then we become participants and sharers in God’s
compassion. Thus, we get in touch with our own vulnerability
as we touch the pain of others in a compassionate and caring
It starts among ourselves,
showing compassion to the sick, the lonely, the helpless,
and those needing encouragement.
Compassion is more than pity or an
occasional handout to someone in need. Compassion is a great
equalizer. Nothing we can do is too small to make a difference.
It is a life journey. We find out how we are all connected and
in need of compassionate care at times.
Beyond addressing the direct aid, we
need to look at long-term solutions. What are the causes of this
problem and pain? Where is it coming from? What can we do to
change the unjust system and structure that may be causing the
problem in the first place. We can help the victims of injustice
to stand tall, with courage and hope. In our global village we
are faced every day with countless needs that cry out to be
addressed. We can choose and join with some other group in our
response. In this way, we bring the need for justice into our
The call to compassion is like the
voice of God calling us: "I have no hands or heart but yours to
show compassion to those most in need." How will I/we respond?
We can invite our churches or organizations to respond in some
meaningful way. None of us can fully reach our destination while
others are left out. We need each other for growth and change.
Each one of us is called to be compassionate as our God is
compassionate. Let us give some deep thought to this call and
respond with courage and hope.