Have you given much thought how you will answer God when you come face to face with Him as your soul passes from earth to heaven? Do you know what you will say when asked to account for your actions to help build the His kingdom on earth. Do you have a good answer for “How well did you love me?”
I am pretty certain that telling Him “I was a good person” will not grant me the gift of eternal life. Because my actions speak louder than words, I know it is in my daily choices that show Him how much I love Him. They demonstrate whether I belong to Him or to the world. How well do I allow Him to increase, while I decrease? We know that it is only through God’s grace and mercy we are reconciled to Him. And it is only as I become more who he designed me to be and seek to do His will, I will be drawn to give His love away to others.
For I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.Focus on His truth, Matthew 25
The corporal works of mercy help us be like Jesus by serving others. He is the vine, and we are the branches. God wants us to be fruit-laden branches to help the vine grown and spread. Since even healthy branches need to be pruned, the corporal works of mercy help with this pruning as they take us out of our ego to focus on others. Service is such an important component of any recovery work, as it gets me out of my own thoughts, issues and worries by helping my neighbor. For many of us, service begins in our homes. We take care of our children, and we help family members in need. We take care of the sick and bury those who have passed on. As I reflect, I realize that sometimes I have tried to change the world at the expense of seeing the face of Jesus at home right in front of me. I wonder, how well I have built the domestic church instilling God’s love into my children and the next generation – a most noble legacy. As a mother, I never thought about what I was doing in this framework. I hope you do. It was this past year in taking care of my husband, I was granted the gift in seeing the face of Jesus in my service, care, and love for him.
Serving others brings us close to God. In our busy lives with too much to do, with all the distractions and worldly burdens we carry, how well do I serve those around me? As a single mom raising two children by myself for a period, I know I did the best I could but was stressed out trying to provide for my kids both emotionally and financially. I gave them my time, my heart, and created memories but it could never make up for the destruction of my divorce. I recently heard in a talk by Life Giving Wounds that divorce is our children’s cross to bear. Having come from a divorced family and going through my own divorce, this is very real. My busyness built a wall between me and my spiritual growth feeding the illusion that I had everything under control and blocking out Your voice.
We are all going to experience miserable moments in our life. The world is a valley of tears and everyone will suffer. There is no way around it. Whether it is financial problems, martial hardships, psychological struggles, difficulties in relationships or a thousand other woes, we all experience misery in this earthly life. It is good to have someone to turn to for solace.
The corporal works of mercy are found in the teachings of Jesus and give us a model for how we should treat all others, as if those we encounter are Christ in disguise. The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we help our neighbors in their bodily needs. These actions respond to the basic needs of humanity as we journey together through this life. In the Catholic tradition, we are given the corporal and spiritual works of mercy which are a means of grace as good deeds. These works are based on the doctrine of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25:31-46. If you are not familiar with this parable, I like how this article unpacks it and provides four takeaways: The sheep did not know what they did, little things matter a lot, don’t leave good undone and put in the effort. I pray I fall into the sheep camp as the Good Shephard separates the sheep from the goats!
The spiritual and corporal works of mercy seek to help alleviate human misery – material deprivation, unjust oppression, physical and psychological illness, and death. Such misery is an obvious sign of our inherited human frailty and need for salvation because of original sin. We are obliged to perform the works of mercy, according to our own ability and the needs of our neighbors. It is important to remember that ordinary deeds done every day to meet the corporal or spiritual needs of others are true works of mercy, if done in the name of Christ. Taking care of children, teaching children and adults about the faith, caring for elderly parents or a sick child or spouse are some examples.
The corporal works of mercy are listed below with some thought on how we might live out each one in our daily lives. Let us be fruit-laden branches to help the vine grow and spread and in the process learn how to answer, “How well did you love me?”
May you be smitten with God’s goodness and mercy,
The Corporal Works of Mercy – Feed the hungry Give Drink to the Thirsty Clothe the Naked Shelter the Homeless Visit the Prisoners Comfort the Sick Bury the Dead
Feed the Hungry
There are many people in this world who go without food. When so much of our food goes to waste, consider how good stewardship practices of your own food habits can benefit others who do not have those same resources.
- Bring food to the poor or donate money to buy food for the poor and end hunger.
- The next time you make a recipe that can be easily frozen, make a double batch and donate one to your local food pantry or soup kitchen.
- Try not to purchase more food than you are able to eat. If you notice that you end up throwing groceries away each week, purchase less groceries to eliminate waste, allowing you to donate the savings to those in need.
Give Drink to the Thirsty
Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ do not have access to clean water and suffer from the lack of this basic necessity. Let’s support the efforts of those working towards greater accessibility of this essential resource and not take it for granted that we have access to clean water.
- Donate to help build wells for water for those in need.
- Try not to waste water. Remembering to turn off the water faucet when you are brushing your teeth or washing dishes can help, especially in regions suffering from drought.
- Carry water bottles in your car to hand out to those in need or give someone a drink on a hot day.
- See the face of Jesus as you give a baby its bottle, pour drinks at the table, or lift a young child to get a drink at a water fountain.
Clothe the Naked
Everyone needs clothing for warmth, protection, modesty, and dignity. It is an act of love to help others obtain clothing, especially those who need help.
- Give clothes to a needy family.
- Share outgrown clothes with another family.
- Take clothes to a clothing drive
- At home, help a young child get dressed or do with laundry with Jesus.
Shelter the Homeless
There are many circumstances that could lead to someone becoming a person without a home. Christ encourages us to go out and meet those without homes, affirming their worth and helping them seek a resolution to the challenges they face. This is an act of love.
- Get involved with a local homeless shelter and volunteer some time.
- Donate time or money to organizations that build homes for those who need shelter.
- Many homeless shelters need warm blankets for their beds. If you can knit or sew, that would be an extra loving gift.
- There are millions of children and families who are on the move, fleeing from war, illness, hunger, and impossible living conditions, and searching for peace and safety.
- Seek ways to provide shelter for the homeless locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally.
- Bring others to your home in times of fire, floods, or other disaster.
- Help take care of the house, dusting the furniture, making the beds, cleaning the floor, and cutting the grass.
Visit the Prisoners
People in prison are still people, made in the image and likeness of God. No matter what someone has done, they deserve the opportunity to hear the Word of God and find the Truth of the message of Christ. Those in prison and many other persons and their families suffer hindrances or dangers to freedom. Helping them, visiting them, or protecting them is an act of love.
- See if your parish, or a nearby parish, has a prison ministry and if so, get involved.
- Volunteer to help or donate to charities that give Christmas presents to children whose parents are in prison.
- Visit prisoners, fight for humane treatment for the imprisoned, help to care for the families of the imprisoned, protect a little child from a bigger child, fight for one’s country.
Comfort the Sick
Those who are sick are often forgotten or avoided. Despite their illness, these individuals still have much to offer to those who take the time to visit and comfort them. Helping sick people in any way is an act of love.
- Give blood.
- Visit someone in the hospital.
- Spend time volunteering at a nursing home – Get creative and make use of your talents, sing, read, paint, call Bingo, etc.
- Take time on a Saturday to stop and visit with an elderly neighbor or run an errand for an elderly or sick person.
- Offer to assist caregivers of chronically sick family members on a one-time or periodic basis. Give caregivers time off from their caregiving responsibilities so they can rest, complete personal chores, or enjoy a relaxing break.
- Next time you make a meal that can be easily frozen, make a double batch and give it to a family in your parish who has a sick loved one.
Bury the Dead
Funerals give us the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. Through our prayers and actions during these times we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort to those who mourn. It is an act of love to show respect for the bodies of the dead, since during life, they were temples of the Holy Spirit and received the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion.
- Send a card to someone who has recently lost a loved one. Make your own card and use some of these prayers.
- Visit the cemetery and pray for those you have lost.
- Spend time planning your own funeral and writing your obituary and find hope in the Resurrection.
- Attend funerals and wakes.
- Treat cemeteries with respect, cutting the grass on a grave and putting flowers on it.