In this time of lent it is good to imitate Jesus and the saints by also doing corporal works of mercy.
Jesus and the saints always had great love and compassion for the sinner, possessed, sick and poor. We know that Jesus had a purse with money to give to the poor that Judas stole from. We also see that, in the second coming of Jesus as King in all His glory, He will judge us on if we have given food, drink, clothing and medicine, to first His servants (like priests, nuns and laity that serve God) as well as other who are in need.
“And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked and you covered me: sick and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.” Matthew 25:33-36.
St. Francis is famous for his love of God, the Church and the poor (especially the lepers). We see that he loved God first and then loved others, and in particular the suffering. But he spent most of his life preaching repentance of sin and praying. Then, from this he and his brothers would take care of the poor as well.
St. John of God is another example of helping the sick and poor. He rented a house where he personally provided for and took care of the poor sick in Granada Spain. He cared about widows, orphans, the unemployed, poor students and fallen women. He his the patron saint for hospitals and the dying.
The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy are:
1) Feed the hungry. “Man is not fed by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” says Jesus. Food is very important and sharing it with others and the poor is necessary. But, that bread, needs to be given over and over again. Where as the bread that came down from heaven, The Holy Communion in Holy Latin Mass is what fills the hungry soul as well as healing the human soul and body. “Oh Lord I am not worthy that You should come to me, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. Bringing people to the Holy Latin Mass and preparing them to worthily receive the Real Body and Blood of Jesus is the greatest thing we can do for others.
2) Give Drink to the Thirsty. Sharing water and other drinks with our guest and the poor is good. But at the Well of Samaria, Jesus offered life giving water to the woman and to all of us who believe in Him and His Church. Jesus is the crystal clear spring from which flows all that is life giving; the Bible and the Holy Sacraments. Without water, there is no life, human, animal or plant. So we want to share our faith with those who are thirsting for meaning in their lives as well as giving someone something to drink.
3) Clothe the Naked. It is a wonderful thing to take clothes to a homeless shelter. From my years of running St. Francis Catholic Kitchen in Santa Cruz California, what was most needed was men’s clothing. They need socks, underwear, pants and coats (in winter). But as is quite obvious today from the immodest women’s skirts, pants and tops, the real nakedness is the lack of shame and purposely dressing to sexually tempt men. We need to clothe the naked with truth and purity. As almost everyone after adolescence is sexually active or watching pornography, we need to give them back their white baptismal garment of sexual purity and purity from all sins that strip us of our clothes of our Catholic Dignity.
4) Shelter the Homeless. It is very difficult to share our homes with others, but we are called to do that when it is safe. The Benedictine Monks have the rule to give 3 days hospitality to anyone who comes in need. The Abbot comes and greets them and washes their hands or feet. But after 3 days they need to either help out or leave. We want to help others also prepare a home for themselves when they die. How horrible to have a home in this life and then to be homeless in hell for ever. So preparing a person to go to heaven is the greatest thing we can do, because that home is eternal. Jesus says, “I will go to My Father and your Father to prepare a place for you.” Everything we give away in this life, for love of God, will be stored up to build our eternal house in heaven.
5) Visit the Sick. Most of us have been sick at one time or another and know how wonderful it is when someone makes us chicken soup or just visits us in the hospital. Rich and poor get sick and need loving medical care. Hospitals and clinics for poor sick people is one of the greatest things anyone can do. But there is also the terrible virus of sin infecting the masses. We need to go and tell them they are sick and give them the medicine (confession and Holy Communion) that will get them back to normal health. Much depression comes from sin and bad life styles. Only a holy life leads to a healthy happy life.
6) Ransom the Captive (Visit the Imprisoned). Prison ministry is very important. Going and sharing our Catholic faith with those in prison and Juvenile Hall are essential acts of charity. But billions of people are captives of the devil, addictions, false religions and atheism. It takes a great deal of effort and time to set someone free from these enslavements. Before, many people would give up their freedom to set Catholic slaves free from muslim owners. That would be the most difficult act of charity I could ever imagine doing. They would also pay for their ransom. We also allow ourselves to become imprisoned in our own selfishness. May God help us get free, so as to be able to help others become free.
7) Bury the Dead. Funerals are very expensive. So we want to plan a funeral that is as inexpensive as possible. We also need to plan our own funeral with a Latin Requiem Mass. Then we need to have a burial plot in a Catholic Cemetery that is consecrated land. The coffin should be as cheap as possible, preferably a hand made wooden coffin with handles on the side so as to be able to carry it in and out of Church. But we can also help other families to plan an inexpensive funeral ahead of time too. That will be a good way of helping bury the dead so that when the time comes they do not rush and pay any amount that the morticians want charge them. Never act on emotion at this sad time. Just being present to the family of the dead is a great consolation. But make sure the person who is dying gets to confession and the traditional Last Rites. Offering Holy Mass for the dead is also a great work of charity.
Both the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy make up what it means to practice our Catholic Faith. It can seem that the Church is divided into two groups, those that care about the spiritual things of God and the souls of others and the other is concerned with the social justice issues. Absolutely; the most important acts of mercy have to do with the the eternal soul. But the two can work very well together when we put “the horse (Soul) in front of the buggy (Body)” and help others spiritually and materially. It is so wonderful to be a traditional Catholic and do both.
“If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.