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Jakarta Post

Fostering social compassion at Easter and beyond

  • Aloys Budi Purnomo

    The Jakarta Post

Semarang   /   Thu, April 17, 2014   /  11:05 am

Christians around the world will commemorate Jesus'€™ death on the cross on Friday, but will celebrate his resurrection at Easter. The way of Jesus marks the beginning of a long journey for social compassion, a transformation from darkness to light, from rot and bad smells to hope.

Today, we need a true candle to light up our society. As Pope Francis said in his Evangelii Gaudium exhortation, in our time, humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields.

On the one hand, we pray for the steps being taken to improve people'€™s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications, but on the other hand, we know a number of diseases are spreading. There are so many people living in fear and desperation, humiliation and violence.

The world today needs social compassion. It is not just about political coalitions of power and authority, but about interpersonal relationships that will be fruitful through our togetherness. The world today is struggling with loneliness and social disconnection. People are crying out for acceptance, which is oftentimes expressed in violence.

Our greatest desire is to have a comfortable home, socially, but the harder we try, the more we find everything falling apart.

People kill each other easily, or end up killing themselves out of sheer depression.

For such situations, Jesus proclaimed his first act of compassion, saying that God loved humans before they could ever begin to love one another. God'€™s love is unconditional. He wants us breathe his breath, live in the endless embrace of his love. There, we can find our home.

For all of these reasons, Jesus died on the cross. His passion on the cross was the beginning of his compassion for all mankind.

How can we learn from and practice Jesus'€™ compassion in our lives today?

First, we must enter into life trusting in God'€™s abundant grace and love. This should be the basis of our social community. We should change the orientation of our lives from being successful to being fruitful. Fruitfulness is the very opposite of successfulness.

We can see it clearly in the case of the legislative election we held on April 9. There were so many candidates justifying vote-buying, but very rarely did the police move to investigate such violations of the election law. The candidates bought votes because the orientation of their lives was success, not fruitfulness.

Fruitfulness is the gift awarded to us as a result of our trust in God'€™s presence, while successfulness is focused entirely on results and attempts to control the future according to our narrow egoistic views.

Second, we can practice social compassion in our lives by seeing God in our fellows and making known to others what we have seen. But we should realize that our '€œseeing'€ is only partial. So, we need other people to help us to see well. For this reason, we should engage in encounters and dialogue with others.

Social compassion involves the path of dialogue as well. There are three areas of dialogue for promoting humanity and pursuing the common good in our world today, which are dialogue with states, dialogue with society and dialogue among pluriform believers. In such dialogue, we should contribute to others'€™ lives and try to alleviate the suffering of human beings. We are engaging in dialogue when we build a friendship with somebody without discrimination.

Third, social compassion, more than anything else, is about living in the house of love, justice and peace. This is not an abstract idea. Peacemaking should never be abstract. It should have a human face. We realize it in our encounters with others. We will discover that others are the ones who give us peace and joy and even harmony in our hearts. Others dispel our fears and give us real freedom.

Social compassion is saying no to death and yes to life, especially to those who are the most vulnerable. We offer them justice, peace and freedom through personal and loving relationships. There, we will find ourselves far from fear and able to set others free.

May Easter serve as a light in the darkness and be a time for everybody'€™s dreams to come true. Happy Easter!


The writer is a diocesan priest and chief of the Commission for Interfaith Affairs at the Archdiocese of Semarang.

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