It is no secret that many people are struggling with the label Christian. In fact, the millennial generation is witnessing the rise of a group sociologists now call the “Nones”—people who proudly boast no religious affiliation. Young people are leaving Christianity and joining this group in droves. In the past decade alone, this group has grown 40%. All the while, the quest for spirituality and the practice of mindfulness to find inner peace is off the charts.
As a person of faith with a personal relationship with God, this overwhelms me at times and leaves me wanting to help people find their way to true peace, love, and hope in knowing their Creator and Savior. When I start feeling this way, I know I need to take a step back and pray harder. We will explore today the Spiritual Works of Mercy that give us guidance in how we can help tend to souls.
We were reminded in last Sunday’s gospel how much Jesus wants to live in us by using the analogy that He is the vine, and we are the branches. We know that everything God creates is good, whatever is true, right, and just is the Spirit and His goodness operating within us. He wants to live in us and use our intimacy with Him to help others find their way to Him.
As I mature in my own spiritual journey and surrender to God’s love, my heart is drawn with the desire to help others find the gift of God’s love. As I see more clearly what is important in life, I want to share this excitement with others. I understand how living in our culture keeps us behind the veil of experiencing God’s goodness and love for us.
In last Sunday’s post, How Well Did You Love Me, we pondered ways to practice our call to the Corporal Works of Mercy — to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to welcome the foreigner, and to visit both the sick and the imprisoned to share God’s love for us with our neighbor. While tending to the physical needs of others, it is equally important to practice Spiritual Works of Mercy. I might even suggest this is of utmost importance given the state of our world today, with vast numbers of people riddled with anxiety and hopelessness.
Doing the Corporal Works of Mercy is often a lot easier than doing the Spiritual Works of Mercy because the Spiritual Works of Mercy require more of us — more humility, disciplined charity, and the ability to speak so as not to appear better than or nagging. We are called to counsel the doubtful and instruct the ignorant by sharing our faith and living our lives as an example for others. We are called to admonish the sinner. I find this especially hard since we all are sinful and who wants to hear about their faults? But when it comes down to it, I need others to help me see where I am missing the mark in being who God created me to be. We are called to comfort the sorrowful and walk alongside them in prayer and love so they know they are not alone. We are called to forgive injuries, bear wrongs patiently, and pray for the living and the dead.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy have long been a part of the Christian tradition, appearing in the works of theologians and spiritual writers throughout history. During His public ministry, Jesus attended to the spiritual well-being of those to whom he ministered. The Spiritual Works of Mercy guide us to “help our neighbor in their spiritual needs” (USCCA) so we can continue Jesus’ important work today.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?Focus on His truth Matthew 16:26
Pope Francis lamented that one of the most common and grave area of neglect is the failure to preach the Word of God to the poor. He says first we must fill their hungry stomachs, and only then can we fill their souls with the Bread of the Word of God and the Bread of Life, which is Holy Communion.
This Sunday, as we focus on Jesus’ command to love one another, let us be reminded that our spiritual acts of mercy are just as important as helping physical needs in showing our love to others. We will look at the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy below and offer suggestions in how we might live them in our daily lives and answer the question, Did You Help Tend to My Souls. Let us know in the comments if you have others to add.
May you be smitten with God’s goodness and mercy,
Counsel the doubtful
Everyone has moments of doubt in their faith journey. Nevertheless, we should always remember that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and turn to him along our way. Counseling the doubtful means helping guide someone towards truth. As Christians, our very lives should be a witness to the truth that God sent his only Son to redeem us and invite us to share in his life forever. Each of us, however, can go through moments of doubt. How can we counsel the doubtful?
- Share hope with someone so they might have hope and grow in their spiritual life.
- If someone asks for advice, orient your response to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
- Follow Christ with the witness of your life so that others may see God’s love revealed in your actions.
- Accompany a friend who is struggling with believing to join a parish group for service or faith formation.
- Share a book you found useful in dealing with the topic if a friend voices a faith concern.
- Correct and counsel your children.
Instruct the Ignorant
Our Catholic faith is incredibly deep and rich. Knowing all of it can be impossible, but it is important to learn as much about it as we can. Instructing the ignorant means teaching others how to live according to the Gospel and how to be followers of Christ. This can include formal Catechesis, helping in an RCIA program, volunteering in youth ministry, teaching Religion classes or religious education, or even teaching your children or family members about different prayers, devotions, or Church teaching.
Learn about our faith and be open to talking with others about our beliefs. There is always something more to discover about our faith.
- Share a specific prayer with a family member or friend.
- Invite someone to go to Mass with you.
- Go on a service trip or short-term mission trip. No time? Donate to support someone on their service trip.
- Volunteer to help with religious education programs at your parish.
- Know your own faith. Read through the USCCA to find out more about the Catholic faith and how to live it.
Admonish the Sinner
Do not judge but be supportive in helping others find their way and correct their mistakes. Together we can learn to walk more closely with Christ. In humility, we must strive to create a culture that does not accept sin, while realizing that we all fall at times. Admonishing the sinner means helping someone who has fallen off track to get back on the path towards holiness. We all fall at different points of our life. Sometimes, we need help choosing the good and sticking with it.
- Do not judge, but guide others towards the path of salvation (see Mt 7:1-2).
- “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5).
- When you correct someone, do not be arrogant. We are all in need of God’s loving correction.
- Pointing out other’s shortcomings is never easy, and we do this as a merciful act of love to bring someone closer to the heart of the Father.
- Ask someone to journey with you to a deeper understanding of our shared faith.
- Lovingly point out negative patterns or tendencies in a person’s life.
- Talk about your own experience of sin and how God’s grace has changed things in your life.
Comfort the Sorrowful
We all experience different moments of sorrow in our lives. Comforting the sorrowful involves reaching out to those having a hard time and accompanying them on their journey of grief. Do not forget the value in simple accompaniment. A few moments of your day may make a lifetime of difference to someone who is going through a difficult time.
- Call a friend whose been feeling down and ask them about their day.
- Send a card to someone going through a difficult time or suffering.
- Listen to and comfort a friend who needs to vent or cry.
- Be open to listening and comforting those who are dealing with grief. Even if we are not sure of the right words to say, our presence can make a big difference.
- Lend a listening ear to those going through a tough time.
- Make a home cooked meal for a friend who is facing a difficult time
Forgiving others is difficult at times because we do not have God’s limitless mercy and compassion. But Jesus teaches us that we should forgive as God forgives, relying on him to help us show others the mercy of God. Forgiveness often is not our natural response when we have been hurt or wounded. It is much easier to close, hold a grudge or avoid the problem altogether. As Christians, we know that only forgiveness will lead us to true freedom.
- Let go of grudges.
- Use the following promise from the Lord Jesus to help forgive another, “As many times as you forgive others, [insert a name], that’s how many times I’ll forgive you.”
- Try to understand why someone might have hurt you. Does it stem from their own woundedness? Pray for those that have harmed you.
- Saying sorry is something we learn as kids, but how often do we really mean it? Forgiveness transforms hearts and lives.
- Participate in the Sacrament of Penance
- Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and ask to grow in mercy.
Bear Wrongs Patiently
Because we live in a fallen world, we face injustice throughout our lives. We need to not be bitter about wrongs done against us. Place your hope in God so that you can endure the troubles of this world and face them with a compassionate spirit.
- Frustrated with someone? Step away from the situation, take a few deep breaths, pray the Our Father, asking God for patience.
- Ask for the strength to encounter hardship and sorrow with patience when it arises.
- There will be moments when you feel unjustly treated by co-workers, family, friends, or even by God himself. Ask for clarity, patience, and joy in the midst of these trials.
- Pray for those who have treated you unfairly.
- Pray about a time when you have treated others unfairly.
Pray for the Living and the Dead
Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support others. Joining together in prayer for the living and the dead entrusts us all into God’s care. Prayer unites us not only with God, but with each other.
- Pray for the other members of the Body of Christ.
- Pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died, especially within our families, so that we may hope to join them one day in heaven.
- Pray for the needs of our friends, family, and those of the whole world.
- Ask a friend or family member how you can best pray for them.
- Keep your own book of prayer intentions, writing down the names of those who you are keeping in your prayers, and bring this book with you to Mass or the chapel.
- Offer up your day, work, or activities for the needs of those around you.
- Request a Mass intention for a friend or family member who is going through a tough time.
- Request a Mass intention for a deceased family member or friend.
- Through prayer, entrust your cares and concerns for those around you to God.