December 3, 2015
After much anticipation, the Year of Mercy is finally beginning on Dec. 8. With its arrival comes our part in embracing its spirit. But how do we do that? As usual, Pope Francis doesn’t let us down. He’s given us some concrete ways to embrace this Holy Year. Ultimately, Pope Frank wants us to “rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.”
The spiritual and corporal works of mercy are treasures of our faith that have been around for centuries, but aren’t talked about a whole lot anymore. These works of mercy are actions that help us reach out to the needs of others. The corporal works of mercy are concerned with another’s physical well-being and are as follows: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.
The spiritual works for mercy are concerned with the spiritual well-being of others, and are as follows: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the sorrowful, and pray for the living and the dead.
Taking these suggestions from the Church to heart can really help us enter more fully into the year of mercy. Sure, we should be doing these acts of mercy all year long, but what better time than the year of mercy to really intentionally make them part of our everyday lives?
Every day, you ask? Yes, every day! If you think about it, we don’t have to go far out of our way to accomplish the list of works of mercy above, considering we experience these situations most days.
How many of us have sick and/or elderly parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc. whom we are long overdue with a visit? How many of us know we need to let go of some offense that has left us a little more hard-hearted? And how many of us see people each day, at work, at home, at school, who are suffering and in need of a listening ear or a helping hand?
I think Pope Frank wants us to take advantage of these everyday moments that we tend to overlook. Once we begin to see with eyes of mercy, like Pope Francis does and like Jesus did, we will begin to see the hundreds of ways we can show mercy to those around us each day.
With the holidays upon us, it’s even more fitting for us to go above and beyond with these works of mercy. Maybe step outside of ourselves and help out at a homeless facility within our community this month, and remember that these people have much less than us. Or maybe we can make it a special Advent practice to pray more often for the living and the dead.
Maybe we should seriously consider helping to instruct others in the faith by helping out with a faith formation class in our parish. Or maybe there is an even closer opportunity for instructing the ignorant in our lives, like sharing some truth of the faith with family when it comes up in conversation and we know the answer, or reading more stories of the faith to our children.
However God is leading us to practice these works of mercy during this Holy Year, let’s embrace them with our whole hearts. These beautiful works were given to us by the Church for a reason, and it’s not every year that we are specifically called to “rediscover their greatness.”
Let’s rediscover it together.