March 18, 2019
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality 
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Second Week of Lent
Lectionary: 230

Daniel 9:4B-10
Psalms 79:8, 9, 11 and 13
Luke 6:39-38

Praying Lent Home

At the end of the first chapter of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, we read about how each of us is to be perfect as our Heavenly father is perfect. Well that does not work very well. Why would we go on reading anything which would depress our spirits!

Today’s Gospel Reading is from the one chapter of Luke’s account of the Sermon and the Beatitudes. Be compassionate as your Heavenly Father is compassionate.   Well now that’s a tough one, but possible, sometimes. We are also urged not to judge or condemn. Now something like this makes me question and ponder whether or not Jesus really ever lived in a religious community or family or ever worked in an office or was a member of a faculty.

Our senses and intellects and wills are set up exactly to perceive, process by judging and select what is good and what is not so. One of the dangerous things of Lent is precisely to take in our personal data, judge ourselves and, kind-of, condemn ourselves. Now that’s not exactly Lenten prayer. It is so good that Luke begins by having Jesus encourage us to be compassionate with ourselves as an affirmation that our Heavenly Father knows our ways, our set-up, our longings for perfection. Compassion is not pity nor forgiveness actually.

I have been in locker rooms at the halftime of football and basketball games. No matter how well the teams have been doing, their coaches have exact advice on how the team and each player has not executed the game-plan. This spirited encouragement can sound harsh at times and demanding, but in the real sense of the word, it is compassionate. Passion, at its root-meaning, contains the experience of “reception” or “presence to”. To be compassionate is to be present and available and eager to be with the other in their truth. Compassion is to know, at least partially, the story, the truth, the condition of the other or others.

We judge what we know, but we usually judge only a section or part of the other’s truth. We do not know their entire story and assume that what we judge of another is correct, because we assume they are doing this or that the way we do.

Lent is not a kind of halftime chat within which we scold and criticize ourselves enough so that we can feel badly enough for forty days and Easter is then a religious relief.  We can slip then back into the game of life. Compassion is not what God has for us now and then. God is not compassionate, but is Compassion. God does not show mercy, God is Mercy.

Here’s a very humorous thing as I am writing. I just received a call from a student in our class who has decided that the course is too demanding. (As I write, we are at the beginning of the second semester.) I invited him to my office this afternoon. I am not happy and, while writing about “compassion,” I really find myself inclined to be quite stiff and challenging with him. Now I don’t know his story - I hardly know anything about him - but he is a graduating Senior here at a Jesuit University and I do not feel very receptive, compassionate. I wonder how I will be this afternoon.    I think I will read over this Reflection a few times, correct the typing and maybe it will help me correct my attitude and behavior.  

It is now three weeks since I first composed this Reflection. Here’s the rest of the story. The lad received my direct compassion and has actually done very well in the class. So “compassion” has a present and a fruitful future.

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