Living Our Mission

From the August 21 & 28, 2022 HT Bulletin

by Fr. Ben Hawley, SJ

He will baptize you with the holy life-breath and with fire (Matthew 3:11). The fire of the holy life-breath enkindles in our hearts a constantly renewed sense of purpose: to share the divine fire of God’s rescuing love with all God’s people and to enter more deeply into a special wisdom, namely, the wisdom of compassion for all who suffer, which is everyone, including ourselves.

Our wisdom after all is only as great as our compassion. Compassion is the lens through which we glimpse the grief, the loneliness, the hopelessness of humanity’s poverty of spirit. Compassion also helps us recall the goodness of Creation and God’s fiery desire to bring us and those who are burdened a new hope, a liberating sense of relief, a way forward.

This wisdom emerges into our consciousness as we look attentively, see with compassion, and embrace with love. As we do so, the Messiah, for whom we make straight the way, enriches our efforts with renewed purpose and fire beyond our imaginings and brings rescue to us and through us to others who suffer.

Compassion offers us a key entry point into lamentation, a practice we inherit from the Jewish scriptural tradition. As we lament specific and general instances of human suffering, including our own, we enter more deeply and imaginatively into human suffering in a soul-expanding way, allowing the holy life-breath to be infused into the deepest parts of us and into the souls of those for whom we lament.

We might lament those who carry the emotional and moral injury of childhood and young life from alcoholism, sexual abuse, or narcissism within and across generations, all the injured who have learned that they have to smile and pretend to wellness as the price of admission.

We might lament queer people and people of color, the young and the old, for whom each dawning day holds the anxiety and even the horror that awaits them as they open the school door, the office door, or the church door.

We might lament those carrying emotional and moral injury: immigrants, prisoners, military vets, the homeless, those for whom each dawning day holds the horror of bureaucratic injustice and ineptitude.

Lamentation can help move us and them towards God’s rescue, to a new interior peace and stability of which St Paul speaks in the Letter to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always!...The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all. But in everything,...
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

May our compassion and our lamentation bring God’s joy to us and to all who suffer.