Grace and peace to you and through you
Today we remember our Baptism as we reflect on the Baptism of Jesus. Baptism is to be washed – more like soaked – in the ways of Jesus. One aspect of Jesus’ character that the world desperately needs to soak itself in – is compassion. Compassion is the willingness to suffer with. The root of the word is connected to womb – wombishness. This reminds us that the suffer-ing we are willing to share is what enables new birth – new life. It may come as a surprise to you, that apathy is in actual fact the opposite of compassion. We under-stand apathy to mean – uncaring, which it is – but apathy’s root-meaning actually means the fear or refusal to suffer … with others.
A number of years ago Karen Armstrong co-ordinated the writing of the Charter for Compassion which is especially directed towards the religious. As we renew our baptism vows today let us renew our commitment to the Charter of Compassion again:
Charter for Compassion
“The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all reli-gious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”