Are our desires the same as God’s?
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Are our desires the same as God’s?
In the 1990s, our Mother General Helen McLaughlin RSCJ wrote in her letter to the Society about “couch compassion.” It is a kind of compassion that we experience while sitting comfortably in front of the TV in warm slippers and cry over the fate of the world, but it does not touch us deeply and does not reach our hearts. When we change the channel it goes away.
The phenomenon that I observe today is somewhat similar, but it seems to me much more dangerous. I called it “event compassion”. It is similar to couch compassion, because it is also driven by media, playing on our emotions. However, when it takes place in the internet age, it begins to have a new look.
How do you recognise the symptoms of event compassion? Here are some steps.
Anger and frustration arise in you, the focus is on looking for those guilty. You get caught up in the basic media manipulation in which the message is prepared in a way to present the victim and perpetrator (sometimes a person, sometimes an institution, and sometimes the whole society). What’s more, in the same case there may be an extremely different media message depending on the media option. The goal, however, is the same – gain your interest and arouse extreme emotions.
Conviction of your own righteousness
You give unequivocal judgements. You are convinced of being right and knowing the only truth. You look one-sidedly and demand that everyone thinks like you. In an extreme situation, you feel ill will towards those who think differently and insult them on online forums. You fight for the guilty to be punished and you have no space for mercy. You also do not notice the good that’s happening because you focus on what’s wrong.
Multiplication of events
You get together in groups that support an idea. You join an event on FB, change your profile photo, go to a demonstration. However, you do not fight for a cause that is really important to you, but you jump from one action to another depending on what is currently popular. You have a sense of making a difference because you join a large group of people who think similarly, but you really only help the media to promote clicks on new articles. Tipically you forget about the case when the media goes silent. Then you are ready to fight for another one.
How can you cure event compassion? Here are some ideas.
Leave it to Jesus
If any matter moves your heart, do not speak publicly about it. Focus on prayer, sharing your feelings only with your loved ones. Try to empathise with the victim, do not deal with the aggressor at all. Leave Jesus to save the world and take care of justice. Do not be provoked by online discussions.
See good and forgive
Take care to see good even in a very difficult situation. Thank God for it. If you can do something to develop it, do it (preferably without publicity). If not, continue to pray for this intention. Ask for conversion for the perpetrators, but above all for the transformation of your heart and the gift of forgiveness.
Reach out to people
See if by any chance, while fighting for justice in the world, you have not neglected the people you have around you. Maybe your neighbour needs help, a colleague from work or someone from your family. Mercy in practice consists of very simple everyday gestures, not great events. Get together friends from your parish or community and do something together for the local people instead of looking for allies on the internet. Follow Jesus, who was always interested in the person beside him, as if he did not care about the Roman occupation.
Make your reality more objective
Do not believe everything written on your favourite website or said in your favourite TV station. Be discerning and get to the facts. Read something in the newspaper you don’t like, see the event from a different angle. Only then can you try to judge the situation, but always with humility and awareness that you do not know the whole truth.
The Good Shepherd is one of the names of Jesus that speaks best to me. There is so much tenderness in the image of God carrying a man like a lamb on his shoulders. Often in prayer I see myself at the feet of my Shepherd, where I can feel safe and loved.
The scenery of lambs and shepherds reminds me of another image. Once I imagined what the most intimate part of me looks like, where I am completely free, where success and failure do not count, where my sin and weakness are irrelevant, where nothing prevents me from living fully, where God lives in me. In my imagination it was a big meadow, on which I gallop with all the power in my hoofs and with wind in my furry ears. That’s a piece of my Heaven.
Always after the fourth Easter Sunday, that is, the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, we have a week of prayer for vocations. Of course, we pray that the Church would not lack the pastors of souls and that there will be many to lead us to God, but for me it is also a time of prayer for everyone to discover their place in the flock. It is a time of thinking about the freedom that a person gets when he finds his unique path to holiness and decides to follow it with courage. This year, I especially remember in prayer those who continue to look for this path and discern where they are attracted by God and their own heart.
May everyone discover his inner sheep that is happily running through the meadows of life, but also walking through the dark valleys with confidence that the Shepherd in nearby.
This week I had the opportunity to eat breakfast with a girl from Rwanda and Slovakia. I learned then about the existence of an app that inspired me a lot – it’s called Be my eyes. It was created so that the people with good sight can help those who have a problem with simple everyday activities, because they are blind. After registering, you can be called (via video call) by a person who needs help, for example, sorting the laundry or reading the expiration date on a bottle of milk. A simple idea combined with the use of modern technology is a piece of Heaven on Earth for me. I can be somebody’s eyes!
This year, I am delighted with the Easter sequence. I sang it with great joy during the last weekend with young people who came to discern their way of life. When searching for your place in the world, there is nothing more important than hearing Jesus inviting you to live life to the fullness and to proclaim the Good News. In the sequence, a large piece is devoted to Mary Magdalene, who is sent by Jesus to the Apostles.
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the road?
“I saw the tomb of the living Christ
and the glory of his rising, the angelic witnesses,
the Shroud and the clothes.
Christ my hope is arisen:
into Galilee, he will go before his own.”
Not only Mary, and the other women who were with her, are sent with the mission of proclaiming the resurrection. This is a task for each of us. Everyone gets an invitation saying: “Be my voice” and can generously answer with their life. And this is not a simple task, because unlike a blind person who is aware that he needs kind help from others, the world often thinks, that there is no need for God. Therefore, let our voice be full of humbleness and tenderness. We need not to shout at anyone, but to show by our testimony that Jesus heals, frees and gives Life.
There is something amazing about being a tool in God’s plan! Do you feel it too?
The resurrection is not only the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and that eternal life is also waiting for us. Resurrection happens every day among us, but often we cannot notice it, because it is inevitably connected with death.
It would be a lot easier if Jesus had just come down from the cross, if he had shown that death does not have to come, that it can be skipped in some way. If the victory was spectacular and leaving no doubt, it would be much easier to believe. The only problem is that our God does not works that way. From the very beginning, he comes silently, as if unnoticed, but to those who believe, He gives power that is greater than all human wisdom. It is no different with the resurrection. It comes under cover of the night, there is nothing obvious in it, nothing we could call evidence. Death is much more certain and documented. The crucifixion of Jesus is a historical fact, and the resurrection …
When something collapses in our lives, it is usually obvious. Our failures, disappointments, pain and losses. Sometimes we hope that God will save us from it, we pray for it and we trust that the storm will pass us. Meanwhile, God’s favourite way of working is resurrection – rebirth after death. Therefore, we can be sure that wherever all hope dies, where there is nothing more to count on, where we see the end, at some point He will enter. Most likely, we will not recognise Him, as those two going to Emmaus, because we will have a different end of the story in our minds. When, however, we do recognise Him in this particular situation, our hearts will be so moved that we will not be able to sit still. At once we will know what to do. This will be our personal resurrection.
While shopping on Saturday morning, as usual I went to the bakery for bread. I was surprised to see almost empty shelves. The saleswoman looked at me clearly embarrassed:
– Almost nothing left, as if they were preparing for war!
– Oh yes, tomorrow is Sunday and shops will be closed… (a new law in Poland)
– They are buying 3 loaves each! When will they eat all that? Till Monday?
Why is there so much fear of losing control, of missing out on something? This is not even about trusting God that He will take care of us, this is about common sense. We have got used to the fact that we have so many possibilities at our fingertips and it doesn’t seem to matter if we really need something, it’s just good to have “such a possibilty”. This is not a modern invention – maybe it was the communist times that taught us that you have to take it while it is, because tomorrow there might be no more? This way, our life is filled with a lot of unnecessary, and we lack space for what we would spontaneously put on top of our hierarchy of values.
I realise more and more that in the process of making different, smaller and larger decisions, the crucial part is being aware of our real desires and needs. If we do not look deep inside ourselves, we will always look for support in gathering things, knowledge, competences… and sometimes even loaves of bread, because we will always think that there is “a possibility” that they might come in handy.
Remember about the subtitles!
A gallery of modern art is very close to our home in Poznań. A small one, with the name of only one artist. I passed by many times, seeing pictures in the window. As usual in modern art, the interpretation of a few strokes on canvas can probably be very different, but the only thing that mostly came to my mind were naked women. The rounded figures were very characteristic, and although I have no idea what the images were supposed to represent, they rather made me feel uneasy than delighted by art.
One day, however, something caught my attention. Among the brightly coloured works filling the space of the gallery, on a wooden easel, there she was. Pneumatophora. The icon of Our Lady carrying the Holy Spirit, freshly started, outlined only with a black line. I was definitely not expecting this. Not there! There were three of us that day, walking on a winter evening and each of us looked through the glass like she saw a ghost.
The story continued, because each week the icon was being filled with colours. Blue, red and gold contrasted with the plastic colours of other paintings and brought a special atmosphere into the room. I have no idea how Pneumatophora found herself in this suspicious gallery, but for me it became an inspiration before this time of Lent. Jesus came into the world, died and resurrected, so that everything could be filled with the purity of the Holy Spirit. Not in those places where everyone puts their hands together to prayer and acts impeccably, but precisely in those that seem most distant from holy. If during Lent we are to focus on our conversion, that is changing our thinking, is it not the point to see that God is the Lord of everything? He is in all the places where we see only suffering, evil and sin. He is crying with us there.
Maybe we only need one thing? To find a place where we least expect God and see that there is a whole lot of Him there.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with my Sisters from Europe in Budapest. At the prayer on the occasion of the World Day of Peace, we were to present graphically what in the last year in our opinion contributed to building peace. I drew a smile, because I am convinced that it is just ordinary human kindness that allows us to overcome our difficulties on a daily basis, which otherwise become unbearable. I am convinced that the way in which we treat a person is more important than whether we can directly respond to his needs. Ultimately, this will be the greatest need of everyone – to be treated with respect and dignity.
A few days ago I came across a video showing how treating children at school affects their well-being and development. Having the experience of working in middle school, I know how much it costs to not get upset in the seventh hour, when the students are doing everything apart from paying attention. At the same time, I am aware that the teacher’s reactions might be crutial in building the attitude a young person will have towards the world and what kind of a society we will all create.
Now I am on my way to Poznań after visiting our community in Tarnów. Many of our Sisters are involved in the kindergarten and school run by the Society, but many more are lay people. It gave me real joy to watched the care and kindness with which everyone approaches the children. This very clearly translates into the satisfaction of them and their parents. Certainly, after graduating from school, it will not be most important if little John was able to solve the equation well and write an essay, but the fact that he was heard and understood.
Sometimes I have the impression that we are so absorbed by the professionalism of our doings and the size of the tasks we undertake, that we lose joy and lightness. Then we no longer have the strength for the most important – kindness that changes the world.
Everyone who works with children, especially in any role at school (teacher, bus driver, lunch room, etc.) needs to see this. I love it!
Opublikowany przez Steve Forsythe na 27 sierpnia 2016
In this next blog, together with Ala rscj we talk about the eyes of Jesus and the fact, that we can see the same way. (Please turn on English subtitles!)