Works of Mercy – Part I

Works of Mercy  – Part 1

The works of Mercy are tied to our obligations to love our neighbor as ourselves.
In Matthew 25:31 – We are told of the Judgement of the Nations, where all will be gathered at the end of time,
and will be gathered and in that time, the righteous will be separated from the others. Those who loved their neighbors will enter into Heaven while those who did not will be sent into the eternal fire.

In this passage we are told about caring for our neighbors. Based on these passages The Church teaches and reminds us of our duty and mission with both the “Corporal Works of Mercy” and the “SPiritual Works of Mercy”.

This week we are going to talk about the Corporal ( Bodily ) Works of Mercy.  Here is the list of those :

1.To feed the hungry.
2.To give drink to the thirsty.
3.To clothe the naked.
4.To Shelter the Homeless
5.To visit the sick.
6.To visit the imprisoned.
7.To bury the dead.

Lets look through this list and see what we have.

First is feeding the hungry.   Many stories abound of a time in the United States there was the “Great Depression” where
everything was in short supply, work for laborers was non-existant.  There are stories of people, who were poor who always had a way to add water to the pot and made things stretch to feed the strangers who came to their door.

Possibly you find that you do not have money to spare.  Possibly you believe that what you have to spare is not enough to make a difference.  My mother used to say things like “Charity begins at home.”  This could not be more true.
I never really got the point of this because it always came in the middle of my wanting to go off and do something other than what she wanted me to do.

In truth is means that we learn charity by serving others.  Those lessons of humility, poverty of spirit and love of neighbor begins in the home with our parents and siblings.  Taking those lessons out into the world is very relatable
to what we are charged with doing in our Churches.   We take what we have received , and share that with our brothers and sisters in the world.

Feeding the hungry literally includes food.  Not just own own family, but our neighbors in our city and in the far reaches of the world we have never been to.   When we were children our parents used to encourage us to eat what ever we had on our plates, because ” there were starving children in Biafra who do not have as much”, and we were not to waste anything.    Our responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters in foreign lands is not just an obligation for the government.   In the end of days there is no government who will stand before the Lord, just people.

The responsibility to feed the hungry, is also for those who hunger for companionship, for connection, for love ( in healthy ways ).  They hunger for peace, or possibly just a respite from the storms of life.

To give Drink to the thirsty. – Maybe you can see the homeless man on the street on a hot day. If you have water or the ability to get it, share that blessing with others who need it.  Water is one of the most basic needs of life.
Sometimes it is difficult to get to a place where water is available.  Possibly, the person might not feel like they are able or free to approach anyone in order to get the water they so desperately need.

Clothe the naked.  – They might not be truly naked, but they need clothes.. your clothing that might be used, might be in better condition than what your neighbor currently has and might serve the need. Many places have clothing collection locations that will take those clothes and launder and then give them to those in need, or possibly sell them to be used  to care for other needs.

Shelter the homeless – In every place in the world there are the homeless.  Either by necessity or by design, by circumstance or illness or need of many sorts the homeless are with us.  There is no reason that there should be homelessness, or hunger in our world aside from the inaction, omission, and greed that is the sin of humanity.
The worst part of homelessness is that it effects children. Children who made no choices, who suffer at the whims of circumstance.

VIsit the sick.   To visit someone in the hospitals and nursing homes whether or not you know them personally is a blessing to them and to you as well.   Hospitals and nursing homes apart from what ever need has them in those places,
are indeed places where those who are there, feel disconnected.  It is easy to feel as though the rest of the world goes on “out there” while you are stuck “in here” apart from the rest.    In todays world, where our jobs demand more of our time, our families, our outside obligations all demand more and more of our time.  It is hard to make the time to visit
these people.  How much of a blessing to them it is to have visitors.  It gives us the opportunity to bring Christ to them. To give them peace and comfort.

Visit the Imprisoned – This is a tough one.  to visit prisoners, those who have found themselves in a prison due to some bad choices they made.  Not everyone is able to bring themselves to do this.  Those people are hurt, damaged, in some cases lonely and in need.  You may be the only light that is there in a very dark place.

Bury the dead.  Many in our world die without money, and without having plans for their bodily death.  We have the need to bury the dead in a way that is respectful, that respects not only the person, and the family, but also in accordance with our faith.  Funerals give peace. They are a gathering of family, of friends.  It gives comfort, and hope for those who are left behind.    It gives those who are involved time to reflect and connect with God, with the Church, and with each other.

In considering all these works, we need to come face to face with our own weaknesses.. and our own fears.
We fear the sights, sounds or smells in a hospital. We fear for our own safety visiting prisoners,
We shy away from the homeless because they look ruff, and maybe the smell badly.   Do we hide our own prejudices within those fears ?  Do we think because they are in need that they are lazy, mentally ill, an addict ?
Maybe they just want the money for alcohol or drugs.

All of the challenges, our fears, our pre-concieved notions, those things we see with our human eyes are not new things.
In the days of Saint Francis there were lepers.  The lepers who were shunned by the rest of society, who either were in hospitals but mostly were in small communities who lived away from the rest of society.  Those who were afflicted with
the disease when someone else was coming close were to call out “Unclean!” and they would quickly leave.

Saint Francis, after his conversion found the courage to embrace one leper and overcome his fear.  The result was that he found that he could love his neighbor , the leper as Christ had loved him..   He found sweetness and joy in the moment.

If we can get beyond our own human failings, and embrace first the knowledge that we have our own faults that have kept us in the sins of omission, that we have have a conversion of heart, of faith that will allow us the blessing of spiritual growth, and allow us to love our neighbors.


May God give you the gift of His peace…


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