06/08/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Compassionate God

The God of Jesus is a god of compassion. Compassion is the name of the Buddha. Compassion is one of the 99 names for Allah. When God is seen as the Compassionate One, the suffering of the human heart is quieted. By extending compassion to another, one enters into the other's suffering. That suffering is both diminished and expanded. There is no magic here. Suffering is not done away with; it is changed. When we experience the compassion of another in our personal suffering, that suffering is released. It opens up, it finds a way out of its inner spiraling.

This is what Isaiah called forth from Israel in exile going home again and what the prophetic word is calling forth from within ourselves - that we might hear the song of prophetic liberation. This is the message of God's compassion which is always new because the inexhaustible creativity of God prevents the repetition of anything, however much we fail to see the newness in our every breath and moment, in those with whom we live, in those whom we serve. Yes, the mystery of God is ever new. In every moment of our lives and in the suffering of which we are capable, God's compassion meets us.

Christians celebrate an incarnate God, a God who so loves the creation that it is taken into the divine heart. In Jesus we celebrate the Compassionate One who takes on the cloth of humanity. In so doing God takes on human suffering.

Some years ago in correspondence with Norman Mailer, he wrote that he could except the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Birth, the consubstantiation of bread and wine in the Eucharist, but not an all omnipotent god. I pointed out my agreement by explaining the vulnerability of the Christian God. For in the death of Jesus as the Word Incarnate - that is, as the self expression of the Creator God within the construct of the creation, God dies. The 60's anthem "God is dead, long live Jesus" was making a profound, mystical and theological statement regarding God's self abandonment as Almighty. Having fallen in love with the creation, the Creator God entered into its finitude, into its mortality and thus has taken on our human vulnerability, our capacity to suffer for love's sake. Because nothing is taken without something being given, there comes a divine compensation. As our suffering is released into divine love, the Holy is poured forth into our lives. In this exchange we are given a capacity for nothing less than divine love and compassion.