March 26, 2017, Corporal Works of Mercy
The Lord be with you!
Although we often hear about helping the poor, we can easily forget about the other Corporal Works of Mercy. These pious practices help to make reparation for the wrong inflicted by sin. Lent gives us an excellent time to put into action all the Corporal Works of Mercy.
The first four Corporal Works of Mercy revolve around the poor. Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless usually involve assisting people who are less fortunate than ourselves. Usually. In recent years many of us have had less than we had previously. In such times it is all the more important to give as generously as we can. Remember the poor widow: her single penny was worth more to God than all the lavish gifts because it came from her necessity. For it is not the size of the gift but the size of the heart that counts.
Visiting the sick and imprisoned can be a very humbling and even challenging experience. We visit both the sick and those in prison because they cannot visit us. Whereas the poor need our material assistance, the sick and imprisoned chiefly need our moral and emotional support. Our presence helps to ease their loneliness as well as give them hope. Whatever God’s plan might be for them, it is His Will that we be with those who are alone and isolated.
The final Corporal Work of Mercy, burying the dead, is often the most challenging. Saying “goodbye” is never easy, but it is far easier when we do it together. Burying the dead not only shows respect to the departed but also supports the mourners in their time of need. As Catholics we do have the benefit of the Church’s Funeral Rites: Vespers (often called the ‘wake’ or ‘visitation’), the Funeral Mass (or Liturgy outside of Mass), and the Final Commendation at the grave. These prayers helps us all to hope in Christ and His Divine Mercy. Participating in these rites also fulfills a Spiritual Work of Mercy - to pray for the living and the dead.
God call us to share His Mercy, both spiritual and corporal, to everyone. We do not need to be experts at any of these works in order to them well - we only need to do them with gentleness and compassion. May our bodily support of all those in need lead us closer to the LORD.