In Matthew’s Gospel there is the story of the feeding of the 5,000. It begins with a statement about what motivates Jesus. It says in Matthew 14:14 that when Jesus saw the crowd, “he had compassion for them…” He cured their sick and he feed them simply because he had compassion for them.
The word that is translated as compassion literally means, being moved in the belly. Some scholars think that its literal meaning goes even deeper, that it means, being moved in the bowel. Compassion works in two ways. First, it grows from a place deep within us that knows, as if from a sixth sense what someone else feels (in this case, what it feels like to be sick and hungry). Secondly, it requires action, a decision of the will, to do what is right (in this case, to heal the sick and feed the hungry).
It is easy to get the feeling that everything Jesus does is motivated by his compassion, by his ability to feel for the people he meets and to choose to act to change the situation causing pain. Perhaps, Jesus going to Jerusalem was not a marching towards his own death and much as he was motivated by his compassion to go to that place that represented the deepest pain of the people.
This month, on January 17, 24 and 31 we will focus on the Charter for Compassion, an international movement to bring the idea of compassion into every aspect of human experience. At the core of every major religion and philosophical school of thought is some version of the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Let’s make this rule the central motivator for every decision humans make – personally or corporately.