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
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
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.