Paul, writing in the first century A.D., could easily have been writing in the 21st century. In the first Reading, Paul is responding to the great concern one community of people, the Philippians, have shown him. He notes their generosity of spirit as they have given much to him. When one reads this Daily Reflection, in any sector of the world in early November 2012, I think each one of us is concerned about the global economy and what it means for us, for our immediate neighbor, and, for our distant neighbor. We are called to be attentive to a concern for others and to be generous in spirit – and, it seems that the present economy of the globe will give us ample opportunity to do so.
As I thought about this Reading, I also thought about a book I’m reading – How Big is Your God? by Paul Coutinho, S.J. He wisely distinguishes between charity and compassion. I quote his definitions – “…I would describe myself as being engaged in charity when I am in control of the situation: I can decide who I am going to help, how long I am going to be of service, and the price I am willing to pay. Ultimately, I decide. When I am compassionate, I do not decide. I have no control – I am sucked into the situation. I am not concerned with who the person is, or what the person needs from me, or how long I am going to be with the person, or the price I will have to pay.” (pp. 20-21). I interpret compassion, versus charity, being shown by the Philippian community with Paul.
This same concern for the other and having generosity of spirit is weaved into two of the three Responsorial Psalms, i.e., “Well for the man who is gracious and lends…” and “Lavishly he gives to the poor…” May our journeys be one more of compassion than charity.