The word “compassion” generally evokes positive feelings. We like to think of ourselves as basically good, understanding, compassionate people. We identify being compassionate with being human. “An in-compassionate human being seems as inconceivable as a non-human being.”

Then come the questions: If being human and being compassionate are the same, then why is humanity torn by conflict, war, hatred and oppression? Why do so many suffer from hunger, cold, and lack of shelter? Why do differences of sex, race and religion prevent us from approaching each other and forming community? Why are millions suffering from alienation, separation or loneliness? Why do we hurt, torture and kill each other? Why is our world in such chaos?

Heni Nouwen, highlights a moment of liberation when we come to understand and experience that God is servant in Jesus and exercised his compassion in bringing about the Reign of God, through his powerlessness. “This is the basis of all our joy and hope: Our life of servanthood is lived in union with the risen Christ, in and through who we become children of the compassionate God (1).” Each of us are called to cooperate in bringing the Mission of God to those to whom we engaged in ministry with through a model of servant. Not a leader who bequeaths gifts and freedom from on high, but one who brings hope from embracing the servant, acknowledging that I receive more than I could ever give.

Linda Ferrington rsc

Trustee of Mary Aikenhead Ministries

(1) Henri Nouwen, Compassion (London: Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd, 2008). 30.

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