Faiths from 80 nations around the globe will assemble in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions (Oct. 15-19). Attendees will arrive not just because it is the largest, oldest, and most inclusive gathering of peoples from various faiths and traditions, but also to support the event’s theme: “Reclaiming the Heart of our Humanity.”
Parliament topics address looming worldwide challenges such as war, hatred, violence, climate change, and wealth disparity. Claiming or reclaiming the heart of something means to focus on the central or innermost part. If there is a world view that humanity has lost its core of goodness, how then can it be reclaimed?
At the first Parliament in Chicago in 1893, a participant read an address by Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy. The influence of her ideas on prayer-based healing was felt throughout the public sessions. She also wrote to members of a Christian Science church just north of Boston, about the important need for each member to contribute unceasing, humble, and heartfelt prayer that blesses everyone: “Forget self in laboring for mankind; then will you woo the weary wanderer to your door, win the pilgrim and stranger to your church, and find access to the heart of humanity” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 155).
Even today, the concept of humanity goes beyond religious membership rolls toward a more effective way of living humanely, which, by definition, involves showing compassion or benevolence. Love is the compassionate heart of all true religion. In various ways, world scriptures affirm that “God is love” (I John 4:8). As the creator of all goodness, God, divine Love, is completely and fully compassionate. The Bible explains: “He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion” (Psalms 111:4). On the basis that God is good, and man, including “male and female,” is made in God’s image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27), we are all God’s beloved ideas. So we are all capable of expressing God’s loving nature, because God, who is Love itself, created us. We’ll find a more humane world by exercising compassion and seeing others as God-created and beloved.
Christ Jesus is a model of compassion. Guided by the all-loving Father-Mother God, this divinely imbued man helped and healed others physically, morally, and in other practical ways (see for example, Mark 1:41 and Luke 19:2-8). While Jesus himself is no longer here, the power of Christ, or universal Truth – so evident in his compassionate healing – remains. This influence in our own thought is a reminder to each of us that we have the innate ability to express God’s lovingkindness, which includes compassion and empathy.
One way to express compassion is to pray for the world. One night I suddenly awoke with the thought “someone in the world needs you.” I took this as a call to pray and affirmed that people starting the day on the other side of the world were protected by divine Love’s ever-presence and that God’s infinite goodness provided safety – not fear – for anyone in need. The next morning I emailed a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a while. She replied that she was stranded in Europe because of a volcanic eruption that had closed many airports. Remaining calm, she safely found her way home, as did hundreds of others. I realized my prayers had been relevant to her situation, and hopefully they helped support her and others’ efforts to get where they needed to be.
Compassion is the beating heart of true humanity. We are all naturally capable of expressing God’s goodness in our thoughts and interactions with others at home, at work, and around the globe. We have the opportunity to let Christ elevate our understanding of God’s universal love and expand our expression of compassionate living on a daily basis. Let’s begin today to reclaim within ourselves the God-given compassion that is ours to express, and let it bring an ever-widening sphere of blessings.