St. Mary's Reflection: Lynne Dombrowski, Junior Warden
Compassion: Learning to Love Our Neighbors
Those who say, ”I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:20-21)
As followers of Christ, we are called to continually exercise and improve our capacity to be full of love and compassion toward all – to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 19.16 -19) This commandment is the focus of the Lenten practice of daily reflections from Living Compass: Living Well through Lent: Practicing Compassion with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind. I have appreciated these daily teachings that explore and remind me about the crux of our faith: love and compassion.
As a child, one of the first teachings of Jesus that I learned about was the parable of the Good Samaritan. It expanded my understanding of who is my neighbor and it showed me what compassion looked like. This parable still challenges me today, as an adult, to respond with compassion, rather than judgment, to others. It pains my soul to see someone suffering when I cannot alleviate their pain, when I can only acknowledge it. Many times the only comfort that I can provide to someone is simply to be present and to listen. I have learned, however, that compassion through listening and understanding is a very powerful gift.
Compassion, listening, and understanding are all connected. The greater our ability to listen and to understand another’s experiences, the deeper is our capacity to be compassionate and to love. One of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou succinctly urges us, for the betterment of our society, to never stop the quest for greater understanding and compassion for others as follows: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
To practice compassion and to love our neighbors is not just a Lenten practice. It is a lifelong journey. We are called to continue to work on improving our ability to listen and to understand the experiences of others and, thereby, to expand our capacity for compassion toward others. What steps will you take this year to be more understanding and compassionate toward others, to love your neighbors?
Lynne Dombrowski, Junior Warden