Caring for a person is closely linked with compassion; in fact, caring is not possible without compassion. Compassion literally means "to suffer together." It is the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another's suffering, and you feel motivated to relieve that suffering. Compassion is more than empathy, though it is related to it. Empathy refers to our ability to take the perspective of, and feel the emotions of, a suffering person; compassion includes the desire to relieve that suffering.
The Gospel of Luke (10:25-37) gives us a beautiful example of care and compassion in the Samaritan who sees the man robbed and half dead. The Samaritan felt compassion on him, stopped and took care of him. The Fathers of the Church have seen in the Good Samaritan a portrait of Jesus Himself. He looks with compassion on humanity mauled by the Evil One, stripped of human dignity and of the garment of grace. He takes care of wounded human beings, pouring into their wounds His soothing sacramental grace, and entrusting them to the 'inn' - His Church, to be cared for until His Second Coming.
The Gospels do indeed portray Jesus as an eminently compassionate person. It is interesting to see the number of times the Gospels mention that Jesus had compassion. He had compassion on the widow of Nain, and raised up her son (Lk 7:13). He was moved to compassion when He saw the leper; He touched him and healed him (Mk 1:40). He felt compassion for the harried and helpless people, and He gave up a well deserved break to teach them (Mt 9:36). He felt compassion for the hungry crowds, and He multiplied the loaves and fishes. He felt compassion on the two blind men near Jericho, and He touched their eyes and healed them (Mt 20:34). But even more than all these, Jesus' whole life was one of compassionate outpouring to the sick and the suffering. We have the scene in Capernaum where "they brought to Him all who were sick and possessed by demons" (Mk 2:32)—a sea of suffering humanity around the Compassionate Saviour. Jesus reveals, indeed, the compassionate face of God.
Pope Francis, by his life of reaching out to the afflicted and by his teaching, has emphasised the need of a compassionate approach in all our dealings, whether it be to the sick and suffering, migrants, those in irregular marriages, people with a same sex orientation, and so on. In a particular way, he has emphasised compassionate care of the terminally ill. In a speech to healthcare professionals from Spain and Latin America, the Pope affirmed: "Growing acceptance of euthanasia does not indicate increased compassion, but highlights the rise of a selfish 'throwaway culture' that casts aside the sick, the dying and those who do not satisfy the perceived requirements of a healthy life." He added: "True compassion does not marginalise, humiliate or exclude, much less celebrate a patient's passing away."
Euthanasia is not the answer to terminal illness. Palliative care is an answer. We rejoice in the growing awareness of the need of palliative healthcare. This year, our Diocesan Human Life Committee celebrates 20 years of its existence. This week's issue of The Examiner focuses on Palliative Care. The Diocesan Human Life Committee salutes the big army of healthcare personnel in hospitals and in homes who dedicate their lives to compassionate caring of the terminally ill.
+ Bishop Agnelo Gracias
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