April 6, 2020
by Susan Naatz
Creighton University's Ignatian Formation and Ministry for Faculty and Staff
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of Holy Week
Lectionary: 257

Isaiah 42:1-7
Psalms 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14
John 12:1-11

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Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

One of the most significant and powerful gifts that one person can share with another is the gift of compassion. 

Compassion rises from deep within and becomes an almost unstoppable movement toward someone in response to their pain.   We respond with love in a gesture of care and a meaningful, sacred encounter emerges.

In our gospel story today, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, who are friends of Jesus, host a dinner for him.  Surely the political pressure on Jesus and the anger that was simmering against him were taking an extreme toll on him.  It is likely that his dear companions were moved by their deep compassion for their friend and reached out to him to provide respite, love and care.  They wanted to provide comfort in the great storm of his life, so they invited him to join them and prepared a special feast to demonstrate their solidarity and devotion to him.  

Mary was so moved that she went even further when she …took a liter of costly performed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Imagine how his muscles must have relaxed and his eyes closed as he was comforted by her tender massage and the aroma which filled the air. I myself would like to think that while she comforted him, he released his weary spirit into her compassionate hands and experienced precious moments of relief from the vicious societal and political pressures that were bearing down on him.  Perhaps our loving God was touching Jesus with compassion through Mary.

Father Joseph Nassal invites us to think about compassion through the metaphor of breathing.   Nassal’s powerful image invites us to imagine that Mary, Martha and Lazarus were breathing on the pain of Jesus:  "I have come to believe that the only real healing for our deepest hurt is found in inhaling that divine breath which is often felt in the compassion we experience from others...and it is when we know our own pain, our own suffering, our own experiences of sorrow that we find the courage and the sensitivity to breathe upon another's wound." [The Conspiracy of Compassion:  Breathing Together for a Wounded World by Fr. Joseph Nassal]

Compassion differs from pity or sympathy because of its depth.  When someone reaches out to us with compassion, we recognize its authenticity and when we allow ourselves to be open to the compassion of another, we are gifted with a balm for our pain.  It is also one of the significant ways that our compassionate God can reach us…through the love of another.

God’s divine breath touches our world through our compassionate hearts, love and actions.  As we journey through Holy Week, and face the challenging complexities of the Coronavirus, perhaps the love of Jesus’ friends can inspire us to also be distributors of God’s divine breath for our wounded world.

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