Thomas Merton: Alleviate Suffering

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When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matthew 14:14

“Physical evil is only to be regarded as a real evil insofar as it tends to foment sin in our souls. That is why a Christian must seek in every way possible to relieve the sufferings of others, and even take certain necessary steps to alleviate some sufferings of his own: because they are occasions of sin. It is true that we can also have compassion for others merely because suffering is an evil in its own right. This compassion is also good. But it does not really become charity unless it sees Christ in the one suffering and has mercy on him with the mercy of Christ.

Jesus had pity on the multitudes not only because they were sheep without a shepherd, but also simply because they had no bread. Yet, He did not feed them with miraculous loaves and fishes without thought for their place in His Father’s Kingdom. Bodily works of mercy look beyond the flesh and into the spirit, and when they are integrally Christian they not only alleviate suffering but they bring grace: that is, they strike at sin.”

Thomas Merton in No Man is An Island (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1983) 85.

The brokenness in our our world tends to foster sin and further suffering. To add compassion to our generosity is to bring grace where sin abounds.

This may sound like a heavy idea to start the year, so let’s keep it simple. Christ aimed to alleviate suffering and we get to follow His example.

When we do, we strike a sin and declare victory for the Kingdom of God. Sadly, some places have more suffering than others,. We must go to them.

Today I am flying to India via Washington D.C. and Frankfurt, Germany. I don’t actually arrive until late tomorrow. Why go there?

There is brokenness in ministries that lack governance and accountability structures. I am doing replicable seminars to bring wholeness.

It’s a long trip and I myself am suffering from back pain. But just like God miraculous supplied what Jesus needed, I am confident He will carry me.

What suffering do you see that generous service could help alleviate? Ask God to help you add compassion to your generosity.