Our calling to a commission of compassion

At Sinai, during the sojourn of the wandering of the Israelites, something very special happened to the people of God. They were commissioned to remember God’s saving deeds and to be faithful to the covenant.

At Sinai, during the sojourn of the wandering of the Israelites, something very special happened to the people of God. They were commissioned to remember God’s saving deeds and to be faithful to the covenant.

In return, they were to be God’s people. With this commission, they became ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Exod 19:6).

Something very similar has happened to us Christians in the New Testament through the sacrament of baptism, in which we have been given to share in the priesthood of Christ. We have become a ‘priestly kingdom’ with a mission to spread the Good News to all nations (1 Pet 2:5).

Jesus as the compassionate shepherd chose and empowered the twelve disciples, commissioning them to participate in his mission. It was due to his compassion as a good shepherd which arose over the sheep who were without care. He summoned them and commissioned them with the same power that he possessed.

Hence the twelve represent an institution that goes back to the historical Jesus and most likely reflect his self-understanding as one who will restore the twelve tribes of Israel. Theirs was not a matter of commission or compassion, but a Commission of Compassion.

This mission to the twelve is the mission of the Church in the world and it remains the mission of every Christian, since together we form the community which is the Church of Christ guided by the Holy Spirit.

The central element of our mission should lean on compassion. Compassion means understanding the emotional state of another. It is often combined with a desire to alleviate or reduce suffering or to show special kindness to those who suffer.

It is mainly characterised by the actions wherein a person acting with compassion will seek to aid those he or she feels compassionate for. And this is exactly what should be the characteristic of a good Christian.

Jesus himself was moved by compassion when he entrusted his own mission to his 12 disciples. On the night of his arrest he prayed to his Father: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (Jn 17:18). Three days later, on the evening of his resurrection from the dead, he said to his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Jn 20:21).

These words from John’s Gospel represent the simplest form of the Greatest Commission, yet they are the most profound and most challenging to every Christian, who meditates on his or her mission in the world.

In his or her meditation, a Christian should sense that kind of passion which was burning in the heart of God. It was a kind of fire so tenderly warm and tenaciously strong that it has never burnt low, nor will ever lose its fine glow! That passion is to win people back home again, the entire world of human kind is included in his eager reach.

In the history of the Church, it is very interesting to note how the above passion, the above fire, has moved so many Christians, both men and women, to adapt their lives to the mission of Christ, each according to the gift and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Some have tried to set themselves apart for the sake of spreading the Gospel, others have left their home land for the same cause, and others have put their Christian way of life at the fore front in their different walks of life.

The task has not been easy. It helps to keep in mind Jesus’ solidarity with humanity. How he identified with us in our human nature by his conception and birth of a human mother.

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity. He wanted to be like his brothers in every way” (Heb.2:14-17) He knew hunger, thirst, tiredness and human emotions. He had listened to the whole of human story.

In our good intention of footing the Christian way, Saint Paul reminds us that it is not a simple walk, since we are requested to live for others and not for ourselves.

“Christ’s love compels us....that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor.5:14, 15).

This of course is not simple for a modern man: to have love focused outwards instead of inwards. Today, we are more preoccupied with our rights, our liberty, our self-realisation and fulfillment.

The Gospel is asking us today, to move a step further as Christians, and to take on ourselves the sorrows and troubles of others and without exception.