In today’s gospel we see Jesus showing how we can truly love our neighbor. Which neighbor? The one who we desire to “pass by” because we fear that we too will become ‘unclean’ by touching him. The one who we see as unworthy of our time and energy because the suffering they are going through, well, “they deserve it”.
If love of neighbor and love of God are two sides of the same coin then we could say on one side there is no need for us to show mercy or pity! God does not need our compassion, for it’s in His nature to have compassion on us! Not only are we created beings, but we are also in need of the healing and sanctification of our souls. Out of His love God bends down to man and this all stems from his loving nature, for “God is Love”. When we stoop down to others as Jesus did when he humbled Himself and ‘took the form of a slave’ to redeem mankind and each one of our souls, we are truly beginning to ‘imitate Christ’.
This imitation of Christ occurs when we truly enter into the life of the other in a personal way. We need to ask for the courage to enter into the suffering and pain of another and also pray for the grace that we keep our inner balance and peace as we do it! And an amazing thing happens as we practice compassion: the suffering is transformed into something beautiful. The deep and sorrowful compassion of certain saints have allowed them to cry out ‘I would die a thousand deaths to save one soul!’.
Where do we encounter such people today as we see in the gospel – those left on the side of the road to die? Do we know anyone who is in need of compassion? Do we ‘go the extra mile’ for such people when they come across our path?
Remember too, that this mercy and compassion can take on an infinite number of forms as well. It can be that ‘tough love’ when we need to show a firmness or when we need to discipline. You can think of your children, for example, who need rules, discipline and good morals ingrained. Whether it’s bending down to pick up those who are suffering, disciplining a child, or anything in between, if this mercy is motivated by charity you are on the right path. Practically speaking, each day we can cultivate an attitude of ‘benevolence’ by constantly asking ourselves “what is the good for this person?” and couple that thought with a little prayer to the Holy Spirit to show us the way.