The Compassion of God
Praying about today’s reflection, the one consistent word that kept coming to mind is compassion. Despite Israel’s infidelity and sinfulness, God did not abandon them, but sent prophets and messengers to teach and correct them. God’s only motivation was compassion. Throughout their history, the Israelites mocked the prophets, ignored their messages, even came to despise God’s warnings. This reading from Chronicles encapsulates that history: the people sinned, God’s compassion drew them back, they relapsed into their sin deserving divine punishment. At the end of this story, God uses Cyrus to offer the people another chance with fulfillment and redemption in Jerusalem. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of God’s people, let him go up and may his God be with him!
Saint Paul tells us that God indeed kept that promise to be with us. He describes God as rich in mercy, who, even when we were dead in our sin, brought us to life with Christ in grace. What compassion God has for us, whether we deserve it or not! Paul reminds us that we are God’s handiwork.
Then John’s gospel continues the story of Nicodemus who came to see Jesus in darkness. Using the story of Moses lifting up the serpent, Jesus looks ahead to his own death, being lifted up on the Cross. Just as Moses’ serpent was a source of healing, so will the Cross become. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus came to see Jesus under cover of darkness and Jesus brings him to the light of truth that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him…might have eternal life.
Again we see that God’s motivation for giving us Jesus is compassion, a saving love that leads to eternal life. The truth Jesus teaches Nicodemus is that each of us is free to believe in him or not, to choose the light or the darkness. Jesus’ invitation to Nicodemus to come out of the darkness is extended to us as well. These remaining weeks of Lent give us a special time to consider the magnitude of this gift.
Compassion has sustained the children of God from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane and upholds each of us as we face the struggles and challenges of everyday life. God’s compassion isn’t given to us to selfishly hold onto but to extend to everyone in our lives. In that way, we truly live the truth that will show forth our works as done in God. May the Passion and the Compassion of God be with us, ever in our hearts.