[COLUMN] On compassion and forgiveness

We’re not all “finished products”; we’re all in the process of growing in maturity. Everyone struggles with a “shadow” — the unconscious, repressed, and often darker aspects of one’s personality that we consciously or unconsciously reject. This “shadow” can often result in a wide range of emotions, impulses, and traits that may include aggression, selfishness, envy, anger, and the like.

Others have more painful stories or difficult journeys than ours, but everyone goes through struggles. Not everyone is in the same stage of maturity, healing, and faith, so we cannot expect everyone to be emotionally and spiritually integrated.

Why am I expressing these thoughts? It’s to foster understanding, empathy, and compassion among us, rather than making us judgmental. It’s to encourage forgiveness and reconciliation.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t challenge people to grow or mature, or that we don’t hold them accountable for behavioral changes. It simply means that, at times, we must understand, respect, and accept where people are.

Compassion towards others is the essential virtue that Jesus teaches in Sunday’s (Sept. 17) Gospel (Matthew 18:21-35). Jesus tells a story about a servant who owed a large debt to his master. The servant begs for patience and promises to repay the debt, so the master, filled with compassion, forgives the entire debt. However, when the servant encounters a fellow servant who owes him a much smaller amount, he refuses to forgive this debt and has the debtor thrown into prison. Upon hearing of this, the master becomes angry and confronts the unforgiving servant. The master points out that he showed him great mercy by forgiving his massive debt, yet the servant could not extend that same mercy to his fellow servant. As a result, the master revokes his forgiveness and hands the unforgiving servant over to be tortured until he repays his original debt.

The parable highlights the importance of cultivating a forgiving and compassionate spirit in our interactions with others, mirroring the forgiveness and  mercy we have received from God.

It is crucial for everyone to possess a heart that is forgiving, compassionate, understanding, and empathetic. Unfortunately, it is often observed that those in higher positions and those who consider themselves “religious” lack such qualities, as Jesus criticized the Pharisees and scribes for this in the Gospel.

Pope Francis offers a profound perspective on compassion: “Compassion allows you to see reality;   compassion is like the lens of the heart that enables us to grasp and comprehend true dimensions. In the Gospels, Jesus is frequently moved by compassion, and compassion is also the language of God.”

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.


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