This Sunday is the churches day for prisoners, a time when we especially remember prisoners and their families and friends. This day of prayer is aimed at those who are actually confined in prison for whatever reason but this of course is not the only sort of imprisonment.
Countless people are imprisoned or trapped by their family situation, their financial state; trapped in work which is not fulfilling but is essential to support them. Others feel imprisoned in health circumstances or a multitude of mental illnesses which unfortunately also bring with them prejudices of various sorts.
Our Lord, in his journey through Palestine would have come across many people who would fit into these categories and as we read so often in the gospels he ‘felt compassion’ for them. Often this word compassion is understood as sympathy which in some degree is correct. But the meaning is actually a lot more powerful than just sympathy, important as this may be. It needs to be looked at as two parts: ‘com’, from the Latin prefix cum or with and secondly ‘passion’ from the Latin passus which is related to the English word ‘Patient’ or the one who suffers from patiens.
So we can see that the compassion which Jesus felt for those in need was not just sympathy but of being with those who suffer. One way to look at this is to remember when we use the word Passion. It is the suffering of Jesus as he goes to the cross to die for us. This can give us some idea of the intensity of the term compassion when we read it in the gospels. Paul, in the second letter to the Corinthians, describes God as the ‘Father of compassion and the God of all comfort’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
Experiencing compassion and giving comfort this is what Christ calls us to as Christian people. Let us remember this as we celebrate our Mass this weekend.