Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Romans 8:12-17; Luke 13:10-17)
An article in the October edition of First Things offers a perspective for reading today’s gospel. Entitled “Empathy is not Charity,” the article criticizes the contemporary urgency to feel the pain of the suffering. Such empathy often enough leads to actions that undermine truth and justice. It may cause, for example, one to counsel a woman with a problem pregnancy to have an abortion. Charity will move us to help the woman bear the child with all necessary support.
Jesus shows like concern for the woman who has been crippled for eighteen years. He does not feel her pain but removes it. Of course, the synagogue leader accuses him of working on the Sabbath which in Deuteronomy celebrates God’s gift of liberation from slavery. But Jesus knows that he has not infringed any Sabbath rule. Rather he has liberated the woman from oppression – an action quite in synch with the Sabbath.
We should not say that it is wrong to empathize with others. Often trying to feel the pain of another gives us a true understanding of the situation that we face. But we must realize that charity – the purest form of love – is not primarily taking away the other’s pain. It is a matter of doing what is best for the one suffering as well as for everyone else.