WEEK THREE: The Moral Life (Life in Christ)
DAY 3: First-Aid (The Works of Mercy)
What would you expect to find in a typcial first-aid kit? No doubt bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, burn ointment, and so on. What would you include in a spiritual first-aid kit?
The fact is, we provide first aid for people when they have an urgent physical need. Some physical needs that people have are ongoing and are not the result of a medical emergency. Some people are hungry, some are without proper clothing and housing. Others are still without jobs and income. Many people have emotional and spiritual needs that require tending. Some people are lonely. Some are grieving. Others are depressed, while still others are in need of forgiveness. The Catholic Church identifies some specific actions that we can take that, in a sense, provide physical and spiritual first aid to those in need. We call these the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
We do not perform these good works in order to please or assuage God. We do not do good works in order to earn grace or salvation. We do good works because God is love and we yearn to live in God. By sharing love with others, we encounter the living God. The Corporal Works of Mercy can be traced to Matthew 25 – the Parable of the Last Judgment. These works are kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their everyday material and physical needs. The Church also identifies works of mercy that tend to the emotional and spiritual needs of people. These are called the Spiritual Works of Mercy.
The key to all of the works of mercy is that these are not the sorts of actions that happen by accident. In order for them to happen, we need to be proactive. The goal of all of the Works of Mercy is to bring about a transformation in society – a transformation that reflects how God intends for us to live with one another. God’s merciful love is transforming. When we share that merciful love with others, we share in God’s work of transforming the world.
Reflection Questions: Choose one of the following questions and share your thoughts with your fellow retreatants by adding your comments in the comments box below this post.
- Why do you think it is important for Christians to perform good works?
- If doing good works cannot earn us salvation, why do we perform them?
- Of the Corporal Works of Mercy, which do you think are most needed in society today? Which do you have the most opportunity to provide for others?
- Of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, which do you think are most needed in society today? Which do you have the most opportunity to provide for others?
- During the Year of Faith, how can you be more proactive in performing works of mercy? How can you help others to be more proactive?
- Describe an experience that you were a part of through which the world (not literally the whole world, but someone’s world) was “transformed” through a work of mercy.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you live in loving relationship with one another. Holy Trinity, help me to live in loving relationship with others, sharing your merciful love with those who are most in need of it. Help me to hear the cries of those who are deprived of what they need to reach their fulfillment. Grant that I may unselfishly share with others, tending to their physical and spiritual needs and cooperating with you in transforming the world through your merciful love. Amen.
- How the Jesuits Got So Worldly
- A Spirituality of Action
- Entering Into a Mess
- Reflection and Study Guide for Educators: Corporal Works of Mercy
- Spiritual Works of Mercy – Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
- The Works of Mercy: Heart of Catholic Identity
CCC References: 2443-2449
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I hope you’re enjoying our online summer retreat, Preparing for a Year of Faith! Take a few minutes each day at your convenience to “gather” here on my blog as we seek to add some flavor to our faith lives by deepening our understanding of the truths of our faith as given to us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Learn more about the Year of Faith. Watch a brief video explaining what this online retreat is all about.
The Corporal Works of Mercy most need today are feeding the poor and providing shelter for the homeless. More and more each day we hear of children in need of shelter and food, we hear about agency looking for donations and how it takes just pennies a day to feed one child or a family. Seeing these people so destitute makes me want to cry and helping at least one individual goes a long way to ensuring at least one better life. I think that for most people who help others it comes to them instinctively, it shows our humanity when we can extent our hearts to others. Sometimes just listening to the woes of others is enough for that person to feel better because you’ve given them an opportunity to vent and they feel that they’ve unburdened themselves.
It seems obvious that all Catholics should be actively involved in performing the corporal works of mercy. How can we allow anyone to navigate through this life without the most basic of needs being met if we are in a position to make a difference? In today’s economy, so many are hurting, doing without. For me, I can’t say which is the most important of the seven, but feeding the hungry seems the most basic. There are many opportunities feed the hungry, from volunteering to cook and serve meals at shelters to simply donating money to a local food pantry. These are the ways I have been able to serve my community and hope to invest more time to this cause in the coming year of faith.
Why is it important for Christians to perform good works and why do we do them if they do not earn us salvation? By doing good works, we meet Jesus. Jesus told us He is found in the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the needy. If we are to lead people to Jesus, we need to behave as He would and do it with a good attitude. People will wonder why we smile while we do such tasks and these will be great opportunities for evangelization. As far as “not” earning our salvation…I don’t believe that. We are working out our salvation at the same time. In the end, will God be able to say that we fed Him, clothed Him, visited Him…?
When I think of spiritual and corporal works of Mercy I think of St. therese the little flower to do little things with great love. I have been blessed to work with terminally ill children for a summer and I consider those experiences great opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ but in fact it is in the simple everyday little things the mundane tasks that make a huge difference. After being in corporate america I am now a stay at home mom and all the kids in the neighborhood are at our house playing baking cooking eating studying while their mom and dads some work late hours and some are just unavailable. There are some kids that are here all day in the summer so much that I laugh that we are going to claim them on our income taxes. lol The best resource and gift of mercy is our TIME. It was once said how do kids spell Love ? TIME It is up to us to find our gifts and talents and not compare them with other people but Share them through works of mercy.
I encourage my class to really think about the Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mercy that they can do. Feed the Hungry – sharing their lunch with someone who doesn’t have lunch, Visit the sick – visit, call or email an elderly relative, Warn the sinner – show a good example to others, Counsel the Doubtful – join in singing and praying at Mass even if their friends don’t. It’s not a big grand gesture or something only done by adults, it’s not done for praise or glory but because it is who we are – all God’s family.
The work of Mercy that I was involved in that changed someone’s world was visiting the sick. On a visit to the hospital to bring Communion to the sick I met a man named James. I asked him if he would like to receive Jesus. His answer was that he was a very bad man. He hadn’t been to church in years. Through the power of the Holy Spirit I received the right words to say to him. I prayed with him. When I was leaving his room he thanked me for helping him see that he was not a bad man and that God’s love was unconditional. God Always Forgives.
Salvation isn’t earned, for it has already been accomplished when Jesus submitted to the cross. But we perform good works as a reaction to the mercy so graciously shown to us, to make Jesus real in the world for others, and because when we contemplate the gift given us we cannot remain still and silent.
We perform good works because that is what we are called to do as children of God. Everything we have comes from and belongs to the Lord – he just graciously shares his gifts and we graciously share them with other children of God. Every time I think I am helping someone else I find that I am the one receiving the most blessings. Bev