Inherent in human nature is self-centeredness, indifference, and disregard for others. This is clearly illustrated in the story of Abel and Cain. We read in Genesis 4: 9, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain answered, “I do not know, am I my brother’s keeper?” Implicit in the very question God asked Cain was that he was to act as his brother’s keeper but on the contrary, he acted wickedly to murder his lone brother. Sin leads us to self-centeredness that thwarts human relationships, but divine love motivates us to build caring communities.
Of all people in the world, it is the Christian community that should act as a caring community because they are constituted to mirror the very character of God, revealed in the person and work of Christ. Jesus demonstrated compassion and mercy to those who were wounded, needy, helpless, troubled and fraught. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and defended the vulnerable. The Gospel writer Mark reports that a man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was filled with compassion and he reached out his hand and touched the man and said “I am willing, “Be clean!” (Mark 1:40-41). On another occasion, seeing a great multitude of people; Jesus was “moved with compassion” (Mark 6:34ff) and invited his disciples to share in his burden for others. Jesus taught that tangible expressions of divine love were integral to his gospel. He impressed this truth upon his disciples when he told them the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:20-37). He showed them that a true disciple of Jesus could not evade one’s God-given responsibility to mend the wounds of others. Through the same parable, Jesus also offered his disciples a new perspective on their so-called strange neighbors; they were rather their brothers.
The scripture exhorts us to provide encouragement, comfort, warmth, and compassion to those who belong to the family of believers (Phi.2:1), but we are also reminded that we must do good to all people (Gal. 6:10). We are encouraged to clothe ourselves with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience and to bear one another’s burden. We are to demonstrate Christ’s love in word and deed. An apt word of encouragement and a small act of material assistance can communicate to people our concern for them. Even our mere physical presence with the people in times of illness, grief, and sorrow can have great healing effect on them and that is why Ecclesiastes 7:2 teaches us that “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting….” Likewise, Rom. 12:15 instructs us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” to show that we are interested in their lives.
Let me conclude with the famous 13th century prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.