15 November, Tuesday — Developing empathy

Nov 15 – Memorial for St. Albert the Great, bishop, religious, doctor

St. Albertus (1206-1280) was the son of a military nobleman. A Dominican priest, he taught theology at Colgone and Paris and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was an influential teacher, preacher, and administrator, and became the Bishop of Regensburg. He introduced Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to medieval Europe.

He is known for his wide interest in what became later known as the natural sciences – botany, biology, etc. He wrote and illustrated guides to his observations, and was considered on par with Aristotle as an authority on these matters. He was a theological writer, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)” – St. Albert the Great

Apo 3:1-6,14-22
Lk 19:1-10

They all complained…

My (judgmental) internal voice has always been thunderous. I guess it’s because I grew up pretty much by myself and had not had much of an opportunity to socialise and learn about others. Today, as I celebrate yet another birthday, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect upon my tendency to judge.

In today’s Gospel, we read about how the onlookers complained when Jesus decided to stay over at Zacchaeus’ house that He had “gone to stay at a sinner’s house”. When I contemplated the same passage and placed myself in the scene as one of the onlookers, I found myself feeling upset as well, despite knowing what happened next. The discomfort I felt wasn’t just in my thoughts; I felt real irritation and anger.

As I reflected upon this, I realised it was because I had my version of the story in my head. During my contemplation, I viewed Zacchaeus as a lousy man… with bad intentions, intent on cheating everyone around him. I thought he was greedy; “Why should someone as evil as him deserve such special attention from a remarkable man like Jesus?”, I thought.

Then, with the recognition that perhaps Zacchaeus had possibly changed with his promise to provide restitution to those he may have cheated, this anger and irritation went away.

We still fall under the same traps. I remember I was irritated by one lady in a class I was attending; she had been yawning loudly and persistently and was generally inattentive. At the end of the day, the instructor let slip (to me) that that lady had not slept the previous night; she had stayed up at her brother’s funeral wake and had come to the class so she would not miss the lesson. I have never felt so ashamed of myself.

In the time since I became aware of my judgmental tendencies, I have learned to slow down and to consider various possible scenarios; the ‘what-ifs’ in the various situations I was facing. As I went through these possibilities, my inner voice tended to be quieter. I also became less suspicious of others and accepted that negative situations don’t always come from character flaws.

Over time, I am reminded that all of us are sinners with our fallen nature, and all of us are going through different versions of the same challenges, and we would all benefit immensely if we were kind to each other.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray for compassion as we journey towards You, Oh God. We ask for the ability to pause and reflect on our thoughts and actions; so that we may be kind towards those around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Jesus for loving us…for showing us how to treat each other with love and respect.


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