At my parish, our pastor, gave a homily on the 4th Sunday of Advent mostly about St. Joseph, but with some interesting insights.  What caught my attention was a recent study he had come across about how our society is more and more tolerant towards others.  The positive aspect is that we, as a culture, are not as judgmental with others as maybe we once were.  However, the study also revealed that we are less empathetic and compassionate of a culture than we once were.  This is troubling news.  We are struggling more as a culture to “suffer with” others (the meaning of the word compassion).  In addition we are not as empathetic (Wikipedia defines empathy as “the capacity to share the sadness or happiness of another… Empathy develops the ability to have compassion towards other beings.”  How can we in the ministry of catechesis make sure we grow ourselves and also help others grow in compassion?

3 ways to teach compassion/empathy in the classroom:

1) Show how Jesus and the saints were models of compassion and empathy. He had great compassion for those He encountered.  He sought to be with others in their struggle all the while pointing them to the truth.  Here are a few Scripture verses:

  • Jesus was moved with compassion Mt. 9:36; Mk. 1:41; Lk. 7:13.
  • The hungry Mk. 8:1-10
  • A certain Samaritan had compassion on him (Lk. 10:33)

2) Take those “teachable moments” in the classroom to show your students compassion.  Maybe a student is having a hard day or another who has a sick grandmother in their family.  The opposite of compassion is indifference.  We need be Christ to our students in order to show them how to live compassion in their own lives.

3) The Power of Prayer: Ask Christ and the saints to inspire you to be compassionate toward others. Pray for the grace to be Christ-like in your actions.

The solution to this crises of a lack of compassion begins with you and me.   My pastor spoke of how Joseph was probably not a tolerant man (that is why he was going to divorce Mary after discovering she was pregnant with a child that he knew was not his).  But then we see Joseph’s compassion because he was going to do it quietly so as not to expose Mary to what he originally thought was her shame/sin (before he had the dream).   We also can imagine St. Joseph’s compassion during the trip he took with Mary to Bethlehem and all the times he was patient and understanding at the challenges of the trip.

May you be filled with the love and compassion of Christ Jesus during this 4th week of Advent!