Fifth Sunday of Lent: Embracing Compassion

Photo: Sister Nancy A. Sell

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer almost four years ago, my sister-in-law immediately began treatment determined to overcome the cancer.   Madeline was senior vice-president for marketing for a major bank.  As she journeyed with cancer, the bank supported her working from home bringing in computers and other pieces of equipment so she had immediate access to files.  Couriers delivered  important documents to their home and colleagues met with her in their home.   In order to spend more time with his wife toward the end of her journey, my brother, who also worked for a major bank, requested a two month leave of absence.    He experienced similar understanding:  “yes, of course, anything we can do, let us know.”  Madeline died almost a year to the day of her diagnosis.  At her wake service the priest acknowledged her bank for their compassion and understanding during Madeline’s illness.  The congregation clapped.  It is true, we often do not expect such compassion from major corporations.  Their situation and the support two major corporations gave Madeline and my brother during a difficult time in their lives are beautiful examples of compassion.

Compassion:  A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another, followed by a strong desire to ease suffering.   Compassion moves us to respond to the fragility, weakness and suffering of another.  Compassion involves going the extra mile for the good of another while living within the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law.

Compassion involves feeling with another and finding ways to ease pain.  Compassion does not throw obstacles in another’s way, rather compassion finds a way.  The opposite of compassion is coldness or indifference, an inability to enter the suffering of another.  Lent invites us to turn away from coldness or indifference and to embrace compassion seeing another as God sees.    God responds in love to our fragility, weakness and sadness.   In a similar way we show compassion to our sisters and brothers by responding in love to their fragility and sadness.

Lent invites us to embrace compassion.

Blessings and peace,

Suggestions for reflection: 

What are  situations in my life which call me to sensitivity, understanding and tenderness in relating with another?  How am I willing to work with another to lessen their burden in time of need?   What keeps me from being compassionate?

About SisterNancy

I am a Catholic Sister, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I enjoy swimming and nature: hiking in the mountains and along rolling hills, sitting by water and walking through the various seasons of life. I am a spiritual director, spirituality consultant, chaplain and retreat director. You can contact me at
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