Living Compassion, a homily

[This homily was offered at the inaugural (now monthly) service for The Interfaith Congregation for Healing and Creative Ministries]

 

Living Compassion

Happy Summer!  Right now, we are in the season of transformation.  In this time of long-lit days, cornstalks stretch high in the fields, grapes grow heavy & plentiful on the vine, and humans gather on porches and patios to tackle projects and share new ideas.  It is a time of empowerment and inter-relatedness, and I’ve been asked to share some thoughts about “Living Compassion.”

What do the World Religions say of Compassion?  Truly, the sources are many, but to keep this succinct, I’ll offer just a few:

Buddhism: “The Great Compassionate Heart is the essence of Buddhahood” (Gandavyuha Sutra)

Christianity: “…be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” (1Peter3:8)

Judaism: “The world stands upon 3 things: upon the law, upon worship and upon showing kindness.” (Mishnah, Abot 1.2)

Sikhism: “Make your mosque of compassion, your prayer mat of sincerity.” (Adi Granth, Var Majh, M. 1, p. 40)

Chief Seattle, of theDuwamishNation: “Our God is the same God, whose compassion is equal for all.”

Are we getting this?  I imagine I’m quite literally preaching to the choir.  Fundamentally, we agree with these texts and teachers…

Hinduism: “When a person responds to the joys and sorrows of another as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union.” (BhagavadGita6:32)

And this experience of spiritual union, of inner peace, our True Nature – call it what you wish – is something for which I imagine we strive.  These sacred texts and plenty of other others reiterate what we might label as, “The Golden Rule,” and yet, for me when compassion is presented in this way, it’s just too theoretical.  The operative word here isn’t “compassion,” but “living!”  This implies active embodiment.  And since it’s all too easy to say and make plans about what I’m going to do the NEXT time I encounter another who deserves compassion, I want to invite us to live compassion in this moment, right now.

Place a hand on your heart, and call to mind a few activities that made up your day today. You may have been chipping away at a long-term goal.  You may have been addressing an immediate task.  First and foremost, did you bring compassion to yourself in this process?  Did you speak kindly to your perceived sense of being inadequate or failing?  Did you take the moment to celebrate an accomplishment, or to nurse a hurt feeling?  Did you firmly guide yourself away from self-destructive tendencies and back into the game when part of you rebelled, threw a tantrum, or gave up?  This is living compassion; in this way, our life becomes a sacred text for ourselves and in our relationships with others.  And it’s NOT simple!!! It demands vigilance, and tough love, and it’s essential in our pursuit of health, wholeness and peace.

To close, I want to draw upon the strengths of the season at hand.  Just a couple of weeks ago, we celebrated the solstice, the longest day of the year.  Hafiz, the Sufi poet, reveres the sun thusly,

Even after all this time 
The sun never says to the earth, 
“You owe Me.”

Look what happens with 
A love like that, 

It lights the Whole Sky!

Did you know that since it was born a star, our sun transforms 4 million tons of itself – every second – into light?[1]  No self-empowerment issues there!!!  And talk about inter-related!!?? This outpouring of sunlight creates the photosynthesis upon which our lungs and stomachs depend!

The Sun's Generosity! Credit: NASA/European Space Agency

Like sunlight becoming the earth’s vitality, does our living compassion toward ourselves grow inter-relatedness with others and all of life?  I believe so…and I invite you to think about it.  As you go about your lives in the next days, notice what feels heavy in your heart.  What in this world brings fatigue that is yours to tend and transform?

May we set about to penetrate each moment of our lives with compassion.  And may we find therein wisdom enough, space enough and love enough to light the whole sky.  May it be so!



[1] Swimme, Brian.  The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos: Humanity and the New Story, pp. 40-42. Orbis Books, 1996.

 

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