Here follows some food for thought and action, for our hearts and minds, about our capacity for compassion.

Residents of Gaza describe their families’ experience of living through the Israeli bombardment with no way to escape. PBS NewsHour

From Elie Wiesel: 

One thing is sure: man today must be obsessed; if he is, there is still hope.  If he is passionate, meaning com-passionate….there is hope.

 “In the face of suffering, one has no right to turn away, not to see.”  Surely this applies to the television news we watch these days from Gaza where water, food, shelter is in short supply and there is no electricity even for hospitals and bombs keep falling? 

When someone suffers, and it is not you, he comes first.  His very suffering gives him priority.

“To watch over a man who grieves is a more urgent duty than to think of God.”  Elie Wiesel, of course, was a concentration camp survivor.

“What a Gazan Should Do During an Israeli Air Strike” Award-winning author Mosab Abu Toha reads his poem, published in The New York Review of Books, 5/1/2023.

From the prophet Isaiah:

The wine is mourning, the vine is pining away,
all glad hearts are sighing.
The merry tambourines are silent,
the sound of reveling is over,
the merry lyre is silent.
There is lamentation in the streets: no wine,
joy is lost,
gladness is banished from the country.
Nothing but rubble in the city.  (Is 24:7-9, 11, 12)

“Nothing but rubble in the city.”

What do 1.3 million Gazans do after this war and its bombings?  Where do they live?  Who pays to put up buildings and apartments and how long does that take?

“Bombing Kids Is Not Self Defense.” Protestor at a Columbus, OH demonstration, 10/21/2023. Photo by Becker1999 on Flicker.

Rabbi Heschel understands justice as awakening to injustice when he defines it as “the active process of remedying or preventing what should arouse the sense of injustice.”  

Justice is aroused by passionate caring. 

He continues, “the urgency of justice urges an urgency of aiding and saving the victims of oppression.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 277, 270, 289f.

Banner Image: Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal area in Gaza City on October 9, 2023. Photo by Naaman Omar on Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

How do you see these meditations on compassion and justice applying to yourself and your culture and to the events going on in Ukraine and the Middle East today?

Recommended Reading

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

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3 thoughts on “Words from the Wise on Compassion and Justice”

  1. Avatar

    Higher Ground

    When life overwhelms you
    And emotions cloud your mind
    When violence keeps moving forward
    Leaving you one step behind

    There’s a place you can go
    To get away from it all
    From the ends of the Earth
    There is one who hears your call

    Love will be your refuge in the storm
    Your steady rock when all falls

    Under the shadow of Her wings
    And the shelter of His promises
    They offer unfailing love
    Faithfully watching over you
    Leading you through
    To higher ground… higher ground

    (Bridge and then back to chorus)
    Love will be your refuge in the storm
    Your steady rock when all falls

    (Worship song I wrote)

    One Thing Remains

    Higher than the mountains that we face
    Stronger than the power of the grave
    Constant in the trial and the change
    One thing… remains, One thing… remains

    Your love never fails, never gives up
    Never runs out on me (X3)

    On and on and on it goes
    It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
    And I never, ever have to be afraid
    One thing… remains, One thing… remains

    (Bridge and back to chorus)
    In death, in life, I’m confident and covered
    By the power of Your great love
    In dark, in light, there’s nothing that can
    Separate my heart from Your great love

    (Worship song by Christa Black)

  2. Richard E Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, today you ask: “How do you see these meditations on compassion and justice applying to yourself and your culture and to the events going on in Ukraine and the Middle East today?” They have led me to have more compassion for people on both sides of the issues, because people are suffering on both sides, due to decisions of those in power, over which the people have no say in what is done. And for those in power it is ultimately money and land that they are after. I highly recommend that your readers watch the Netflix documentary titled, “Born in Gaza.” It is a look at Gaza through the eyes of the children who survived the 2014 war. Thank you Matthew for sharing your thoughts with us !!!

  3. Avatar

    Thank you for the lovely blessing, which does apply to all war torn place, of which there are so many right now, just not being covered by the media. I am also old and infirm, but I can pray, I can continue to demand from my “representatives” in Congress and the president that they pursue peace, and I can donate to organizations that are there on the ground helping, at risk to themselves.

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