We live in a world which possesses time-old categories and time-old attitudes. The focus is often on strength and firmness of purpose. The most prominent persons are those who use their strength and energy to bulldoze their way through life, often taking advantage of the weakness and helplessness of their fellow-men. In such a situation, the world has little sympathy for the weak and vulnerable but stands fast by the powerful and the mighty. Those who are disadvantaged often look in vain for a haven of support and understanding.

Sometimes people who are weak and helpless are led to practise role-playing to hide their identity and conceal their wretchedness. Some years ago, there was the very revealing stage show of the 'Wizard of Oz' which displayed this not uncommon reality. People are not happy with themselves and put on masks to pretend to be what they are not. Underlying this aberration is a refusal to accept oneself.

The Wizard of Oz was a man whose problem was a deep insecurity. He sought to hide his insecurity by pretending to possess superhuman powers and bring upon himself the fear of all who passed by. How he terrorized his fellow-men! However, in doing so, he made himself distant from the rest of men. He alienated himself from normal human beings. Seeking to conceal his helplessness by a show of strength, he further increased his loneliness.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta who had a profound understanding of the heart, identifies loneliness as the most common disease in the world. This is so. But what makes it so crucial is that it is often not apparent. Many will sympathize with a man who is suffering from cancer. However, no one will think of sympathizing with a man who is wealthy or powerful. The truth is that both of them may well be in the same category as far as peace and happiness are concerned. Passionate desire for increase in wealth and power may well be the result of a deep insecurity in a man. The efforts of a successful and generous businessman may lead to much tension in his life. He too deserves compassion.

A man who is unhappy and insecure may often find himself in trouble with the law. Often he will do things that may affirm his personality. He will take a stance of aggression. The search for affirmation is a very strong urge in a man's life. He might commit a crime. No one regards him with compassion. All the cry will be that "the punishment must fit the crime".

Many years ago, I conducted a religious class for boys and girls. Everyone was fairly well behaved and disciplined except for a certain girl. She persisted in her misbehaviour throughout the session. At the end of the class I called her aside and asked her what was the cause of her anti-social behaviour. Suddenly, she burst into tears. I waited for her to attain self-composure. Then she launched into a long story of all the disagreeable experiences she was having at home. As I listened, I felt sorry for that poor girl. I was so stunned that I made absolutely no comment. Hers was a cry for compassion.

Today, more than ever, we are very concerned about the incidence of violence in our land. However, we should not be surprised, bearing in mind the kind of society in which we live. Violence and dire frustration go hand in hand.

In many of our homes there is verbal and physical abuse. There is a culture of boldness, uncouthness, display of anger and a spirit of vengeance. People go through life with deep psychological wounds without ever seeking healing. Our very homes and communities are giving birth to aggressive youth and consequently violence. Deep scars mark the personality of many of our people. Often anti-social behaviour is merely a cry for understanding, a cry for compassion. Who listens to that cry?

People who experience that they are downtrodden need a message of hope. They need someone to take their cause and struggle for them. However, it is those who are comfortable to reap most of the benefits of life. We place drunkards, drug addicts, lepers, prostitutes, the disabled on the margin of society. These people were at the centre of the life of Jesus Christ.

We need to develop a culture of compassion. We need to revive the Christian spirit which makes us responsible for all our brothers and sisters, including those who are considered to be "the wretched of the earth". For this we need a radical conversion in society. For this we need a transformation of the mind, a revolution of the spirit.