Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (Jn 6, 54)
A conference of some 4, 911 words, given by St. Vincent de Paul, is about chapter II, article 12, of the Common Rules of the C.M. (Coste XII, 260-276). Its topic is charity toward one’s neighbor.
Regarding “To weep with those who weep” as an act of this charity, St. Vincent says that such act “makes people enter one another’s hearts so that they become one in feeling, quite far apart from those who are not at all pained by the anguish of the afflicted or by the suffering of the poor.” A bit later he will say: “What! To be a Christian and to see a brother suffer, without weeping with him or being sick with him! That means one is lacking in charity; one is a caricature of a Christian.”
St. Vincent emphasizes that the Son of God is affectionate, tender-hearted and compassionate: touched by our misfortune, he comes down from heaven; he is deeply moved and troubled as he sees people cry, anguished by Lazarus’ death, and he himself weeps before his friend’s tomb. And, in today’s gospel reading, we find him being moved with pity as he sees a widow he does not know grieving the death of her only son.
This prophetic compassion of Jesus, recognized instinctively by the people, far exceeds that of either Moses or Elijah. For though he is in the form of God, our High Priest sympathizes with our weaknesses and is tested like us in every way, yet without sin; he comes in human likeness and goes so far as to sacrifice himself for his brothers and sisters.
That is how affective and effective to the utmost Jesus’ compassion is. We who are the body of the Compassionate Samaritan have to be like him. To call Jesus our Teacher and Master is to commit ourselves to doing what he does for us. He looks at us unworthy sinners with pity and chooses us (miserando atque eligendo). Our experience of mercy and of being chosen is proven genuine in our practical compassion for the poor, whether deserving or underserving.
And let not human contributions be underestimated. Let us recall the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish as well as the turning of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Let us marvel at the grace that made an evangelizer of the least of the apostles, unworthy of such name because he had persecuted the Church.
The same grace can make use of only a joyful and smiling face for the spreading of the Gospel in such a simple way that, however, will be more credible than the sophisticated and eloquent manner of a preacher with a long and scowling face. A fitting word, sincere and tender, will be sufficient to attract to God the most difficult and unpleasant persons (Coste X, 333). Frequenting the outskirts and community dining rooms will do more for evangelization than taking part in meetings—in luxurious hotels or restaurants—of experts and professionals in search of recognition and the first places.
In these and other ways, all of them efficacious because of grace, do those who nourish themselves with Jesus’ compassion get to infuse their afflicted brothers and sisters with God’s life-giving breath.