Many of us who uphold the Church’s teachings, especially in questions of morals, have been told we’re not “compassionate.” How dare we tell couples they shouldn’t live together before marriage, or that they shouldn’t contracept, let alone abort their children, once they’re married? How dare we tell those with same-sex attractions to avoid acting upon these urges? How dare we bring up uncomfortable truths on a whole range of issues, from capital punishment and just wars to honesty, the rights of workers, and the Sunday obligation?
In other words, for many, truth is a hindrance to their conception of compassion and love. Yet truth and love are opposite sides of the same coin!
I’ve been to Confession many, many times in my life (good thing, too!). I have had confessors mechanically mete out an absolution and penance, perhaps in the process reminding me just how evil the sins I committed were. I’ve had other confessors tell me that nothing I mentioned was a sin, that I was a “good man,” and that for my penance I should “lighten up” and “do something just for me.”
The first type of confessor tried to communicate the truth about sin, while the second type tried to communicate “compassion.” While the grace of the sacrament is always present, my most fruitful experiences of Confession have brought together both elements. The priest affirmed the truth about sin, but also in a tangible way communicated the peace, healing, and mercy of Christ.
In our own lives, we must always strive to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). The truth is liberating (cf. Jn. 8:32), not constraining or condemning. We must take great care to manifest our zeal for the truth in a way that is truly compassionate, just as our zeal for souls requires an unyielding commitment to the truth.
Love Stronger Than Death
Christ fully accepted human nature in order to redeem it. If we want to be Christ’s disciples, then we must embrace our human nature, at once sinful and redeemed. If we can’t accept suffering, then how can we suffer and die with Christ so as to enter into His glory? (cf. Rom. 6:4).
For ourselves, let us pray for growth in meekness, which empowers us to act virtuously and nobly in the midst of suffering. Suffering is not a curse, but God’s way of getting our attention, of drawing us to a greater good. Nothing in our lives is accidental or a waste. Every circumstance of our lives, especially moments of pain and sorrow, provides an opportunity for praise and thanksgiving, as the Lord is preparing us for His eternal kingdom.
As we carry our own crosses and help others bear their crosses and burdens, let us remain focused on the love that is stronger than death (cf. Song 8:6), the love dramatically revealed on Calvary 2,000 years ago, the love that has been poured into our hearts at Baptism.
This point is beautifully made in the spiritual classic I Believe in Love by Fr. d’Elbée:
“Without love, everything is painful, everything is tiring, everything is burdensome. The Cross, taken up hesitantly, is crushing; taken smilingly by free will, and with love, it will carry you much more than you carry it. Love makes time eternal by giving a divine value to everything.”