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Center for Action and Contemplation

Our Compassionate God

Wednesday, September 29, 2021


Our Compassionate God
Wednesday, September 29, 2021

CAC core faculty member James Finley gently reminds us of our infinite preciousness to God. God cannot help but meet us with compassionate love. Offering ourselves compassion is one step to encountering the depths of God’s compassion for us.

Compassion is the love that recognizes and goes forth to identify with the preciousness of all that is lost and broken within ourselves and others. At first it seems as if compassionate love originates with our free decision to be as compassionate as we can be toward ourselves as we sit in meditation. As our practice deepens, we come to realize that in choosing to be compassionate, we are yielding to the compassionate nature of God flowing through us, in and as our compassion toward our self as precious in our frailty.

God is revealed in Christ as a compassionate love that recognizes and goes forth to identify with us as precious in our frailty. This is what Jesus reveals to us in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32). We all know the story of the son who goes off against his father’s wishes and squanders his share of his father’s money. When the money runs out, he realizes how foolish he has been and returns home. . . . As he continues on home, ashamed and remorseful, he is not prepared for the moment in which he first looks up to see his father running toward him with open arms.

The father embraces the son as preciousness almost too precious to bear. The son is at once undone and restored to wholeness in a flurry of embraces received and given. The two of them stand together out on the open road, each laughing and crying at once. Each causes the other to lose his balance as each holds up the other. We can sense in their awkward dance of compassionate love the dance we all long to dance. For we all intuit a taste of heaven in the compassionate embrace that welcomes home one who has been lost. . . .

In the actual moment of encounter there is, for the father and son, nothing but their overflowing, compassionate encounter. The parable reveals God’s version of reality. It reveals the way God always is toward us, regardless of how foolish and hurtful we may have been.

Jim teaches how God’s compassion transforms our brokenness:

As we yield to compassion, we are caught in the updraft of grace that carries us aloft. Then, in one single continuous movement of love, compassion draws us downward into the preciousness of all that is lost and broken within ourselves. The deeper the brokenness, the greater the momentum of the descent. The greater the momentum of the descent, the more deeply compassionate love descends into the innermost recesses of our doubts and fears. Suddenly encountering such love, our doubts and fears melt in the love that sets us free.

James Finley, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God (HarperSanFrancisco: 2004), 279–280, 284.

Story from Our Community:
Father Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations help me relate to others with greater empathy. In our suffering world, this wisdom inspires me with hope in all that transforms us with humility and connects us to greater LOVE. Kindness. Compassion. Peace. Joy. Blessings. Gratitude. —Maria G.

Image credit: Manuel Alvarez Bravo, El ensueño (detail), 1931, photograph, Wikiart.
Image inspiration: What is she thinking? How do you feel seeing her? If you could, what would you say to her? Would you notice the weight she’s carrying?

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