The coming of spring each year reminds us of new life from death, as new flowers emerge from what was recently frozen earth. It brings many opportunities to apricate in a spirit of philocaly!As April begins we find ourselves well through the season of Lent, with Easter rapidly approaching. Unlike Advent we don’t count down the days in anticipation of what comes at the end – unless, of course, you’ve given up chocolate! But, very much like Advent, Lent is a time of preparation and reflection.
Traditionally Lent is a season of penitence: of acknowledging the weakness and self-focus of our human nature and how that is sometimes expressed in anger, greed, envy and, sometimes, even violence. We look to God for forgiveness, healing and a better way forward.
This Lent we have seen too much of the darker side of humanity as the war in Ukraine has unfolded. The burning homes and bombed hospitals can make us despair of humanity and question where God is in all of this. Yet at the same time we have seen the courage and resilience of the Ukrainian people. We have also experienced an enormous outpouring of compassion in response to the refugees who have fled their homes in search of safety.
Compassion is a powerful emotion. It is also a word that carries a lot of meaning. Like many English words it has its origins in Latin. It is made up from the Latin words com, which means ‘with’, and passio, which means ‘to suffer’. So compassion means, quite literally, ‘to suffer with’. In practice it is the emotion we experience when we identify with suffering or distress of others and are moved to help.
Christians believe in a deeply compassionate God: a God who invites us to join in the divine response of compassion by helping the suffering and being people who work for justice and peace. More than this, God in Christ literally suffers with us. In Jesus Christ, God enters into the full experience of being human. In the events of Good Friday Jesus experiences conspiracy, betrayal, state sanctioned violence, abandonment and death. His suffering is such that he even questions the presence of God as he cries from the cross, ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me?’ Our compassionate God is profoundly present in suffering. In Jesus Christ, God identified with and entered into the suffering of the world. God suffers with us.
But that is not the end of the story. Easter is coming: the day of resurrection, the morning of the empty tomb! The promise of Easter is that beyond suffering and death is new life.
God of Compassion,
help us to see the face of Christ in the suffering and the dispossessed,
to be moved by compassion
and to hold tight to the promise of Easter resurrection.