People cannot feel authentic compassion for others if they do not feel true love for Christ, Pope Francis said.
"Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch his flesh in the flesh of those who suffer in body or spirit. Touch in order to let ourselves be touched" by God, he told members of the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God.
Understanding God's mercy and shaping one's life to conform to Christ and his compassion lead to doing what is good in the world and healing all kinds of illnesses and infirmities, he said.
The pope made his remarks Feb. 1 during an audience with members of the order's general chapter, which was taking place Jan.14-Feb. 6 in Rome.
The order's founder, St. John of God, was passionate about God and compassionate toward the sick and the poor, the pope said. "Passion and compassion" are gifts from the Holy Spirit that give energy and meaning to their mission of caring for the sick, destitute and infirm.
In fact, he said, "there can be no authentic compassion for others if there is no loving passion for Jesus."
In the midst of so "many signs of death" in today's culture, Pope Francis told the religious brothers to take inspiration from the good Samaritan, who had very few means and very little power, but was attentive and let himself be moved by the suffering that he saw.
This "concern for another's life under threat brings the best out of his humanity" in his tender, loving care for the man lying half-dead along the road.
"In this gesture of pure altruism and great humanity lies the secret of your identity," he told the brothers, urging them to keep alive the presence of the mercy of Jesus, who always identified with the poor, the sick and those in need.
Pope Francis urged the religious order to stay committed to "the service of tenderness" and be attentive to "victims of the throwaway society."
"I ask you to create networks of 'Samaritans' helping the weakest, with particular attention to the poor who are ill." He asked that they also make sure their institutions are always open and welcoming in order to "globalize compassionate solidarity."