Thursday, April 01, 2021

Reflections from the Journey

Over the years I have appreciated the writing of Joyce Rupp. She has a way of expressing heartfelt struggles and joys in light of a faith grounded in God. Some months ago I acquired her book Prayers of Boundless Compassion. I got no further than the first selection titled, “The Body of Compassion”, before needing to stop and take stock of my own capacity for this vital quality in the life of Christian faith. Here’s the first prayer in her book:
“I pray to be the face of compassion –
that those who come within my view
find a cordial, kindly reception
written upon my facial landscape.

I pray to be the ears of compassion –
that those who come filled with distress
will experience my attentive presence,
ready to listen without distraction.

I pray to be the eyes of compassion –
that those who lack society’s support
will receive my nonjudgmental gaze,
a look of unbiased, heartfelt welcome.

I pray to be the shoulders of compassion –
that those who come laden with burdens
will be able to set things down for a while,
and have the load lightened when they leave.

I pray to be the heart of compassion –
that those who feel overwhelmed with suffering
will sense my empathic response,
one that forgoes a desire to fix the hurt.

I pray to be the mouth of compassion –
that those whose voice is not heard
will be empowered and supported
by my determined, vocal stand for justice.

I pray to be the hands of compassion –
that those whose life could benefit
from my presence and my actions
will be assisted by the humble offering.

I pray to be the feet of compassion –
that those who long for companionship 
will see that I walk beside them,
joined in the strength of a common humanity

I pray that the Light of compassion shining in my soul
will recognize and receive the Light shining in others,
that together we will care for creation
with respect and have gratitude for all that exists.”
(Taken from Prayers of Compassion © 2018 by Joyce Rupp, Used by permission of Sorin Books. All rights reserved.)
That is a tall order, that prayer! I have often thought of myself as a compassionate person, and I’ve hoped that others would see me that way and experience me that way. I’ve hoped that when people remember me after my earthly life is over that they will say I was compassionate. And yet I know all too well that I can be judgmental and biased. I know that I can neglect to “suffer with” the other person, which is what compassion means. I know that I can be so focused on my own agenda that I do not listen to the heart of the person in front of me. So to ponder how my very body might express compassion stretches me, challenges me, urges me to be more attentive to each interaction I have with other people.

And so I must sit with this prayer. I must take time to let the prayer reside in me and resonate with my being. How will praying this prayer transform me? Will I allow it to grow in me, bringing new life in me? Will it resurrect the holy compassion that sometimes gets buried beneath the weight of everyday living? Perhaps you, the reader of these words, will do the same as you continue on your journey of faith. And lest you forget, remember to be compassionate with yourself as you seek to extend compassion to others.

Connie R. Burkholder
Interim District Executive