Monday, September 26, 2005

A Reflection on Compassionate Involvement - The Gulf Coast Disaster

The following is from Prayerful Reflections and Faithful Responses to the Gulf Coast Disaster, a free resource prepared by JustFaith Ministries. JustFaith offers gives permission to parishes to reprint this. Please simply acknowledge JustFaith Ministries in your reprint.

“I have observed the misery of my people… I have heard their cry…
Indeed I know their sufferings and I have come down to deliver them…” (Exodus 3:7-8)

Our capacity for empathy, our ability to identify ourselves with people or groups distinct from us, is a quality that defines us as truly human. It is completely human to be moved by compassion at the plight of “one of us,” and in times of disaster and distress we are inspired by stories of self-sacrifice and generosity. Laudable and noble as it may be, sharing our resources with people in need is only human. It’s what “fully human” people do best. More valuable and demanding than acts of generosity however, are acts of solidarity, when we move beyond “doing for” others to “being one with” one another. For it is in those moments, when we sit with and share the communion of each other’s suffering and joy, that we uncover our deeper identity. Longing to belong, we recognize our true selves in solidarity, that bonds and “re-members” us. Making the sign of the cross we could say; “God knows, God cares, and God is involved in our lives.” Giving ourselves, becoming part of each other’s lives, that is the God-in-us. Compassionate involvement in each others’ struggles is a shared cup that allows us a taste of God’s Reign, in which there is no “they” or “them,” only “us,” and “we.”

Some additional readings:
Psalm 51 - Have mercy on us God, in your kindness and compassion
Isaiah 59:6-12 - Fasting that makes us “restorers of ruined homes”
Mathew 10:35-38 - Jesus is moved by the suffering of the multitudes
Luke 6:35-36 - Love, lend and be compassionate like God

Some suggestions:
  • Find ways at home, school, work and church to extend a welcome to displaced people.
  • Offer storm-affected people (and relief personnel) in your community the opportunity to share their stories either at the pulpit, in the classroom or in print.
  • Investigate the possibility of developing partnerships with groups in affected areas, for example, twinning between schools and churches and dioceses.
  • Find ways to gather and send letters, notes and messages of encouragement to victims and workers. This is especially important when the reality is no longer in the headlines.
  • Challenge local media networks to return to the area and report on the longer term struggles of rebuilding and resettling.
  • Continue to focus the prayerful attention of your family, parish, school and JustFaith group on this reality and the people dealing with its long-lasting effects.