Spiritual Works of Mercy
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
In part one of a two-part series readers explore the Corporal Works of Mercy; acts by which we help others with their material and physical needs. In part two, we take a closer look at the Spiritual Works of Mercy; acts that address the emotional and spiritual needs of our friends, family, and strangers. Below are the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy.
Counsel the doubtful
In this Spiritual Work of Mercy, the “doubtful” we’re referring to are those who are suffering from spiritual doubt. All of us go through periods when we doubt our faith. It’s in these times when a comforting conversation with a priest or loved one can remind us that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and to turn to Him always. Just as words of encouragement from others have helped us along the way, so too, can our words bring relief to those struggling with their faith.
Instruct the Ignorant
What can we do when encountering people who aren’t familiar with the Catholic faith? Some may curiously ask questions and some may even mock our teachings and beliefs. The second Spiritual Work of Mercy asks us to be open to patiently talking to others about Catholicism. Remember to use and explain the Commandments, the Sacraments, prayer, Marian devotion, and more, so that they can better understand and hopefully be open to learning more.
Admonish the Sinner
Our role isn’t to actually berate someone for their sins. After all, we’re sinners ourselves! Rather, this Spiritual Work of Mercy encourages us to reach out to others who are living a sinful life and help them find the way back to living a life without sin. This is so important because as followers of Christ, we can't sit back and not do something to help someone overcome sin so they can find salvation. As the old saying goes, "All that is needed for evil to succeed is for good people to say or do nothing!"
Comfort the Sorrowful
Are there times when you know someone is grieving and sorrowful, but you don’t know what to do to help so you do nothing? Just being there to hold their hand, embrace them, listen to them talk, or just sit with them in silence is the best thing you can ever give them. Whenever you hesitate to reach out to someone who is grieving, imagine what it must be like for them to not only grieve, but to grieve alone.
This definitely falls in the “easier said than done” category! If only we had God’s endless mercy and ability to forgive all those who hurt us. In our human weakness, we may think that we’re making a point by holding a grudge and showing anger towards someone, but in fact, as the saying goes, “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” When you find it almost impossible to forgive someone, turn to God and ask that He teaches you how and softens your heart.
Bear Wrong Patiently
Turn to Jesus who knows what it means to be wronged, mistreated, betrayed, and innocently put to death. He will be there to help you bear your crosses. Many people suggest taking slow breaths and counting to ten when you feel yourself about to react to someone who is angering or irking you; how about asking God in that moment, “Jesus, teach me to be patient, let me see as you see, may your words be my words, and may my love for you extend to others.”
Pray for the living and the dead
“Pray constantly and attentively for all.” (Ephesians 6:18) In your daily prayers, remember to pray not only for the living, but the dead. Praying for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed is connected to our belief in purgatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," which is experienced by those "who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified.” The Church teaches the importance of prayer and offering Masses for those who have died to help their souls undergo purification so that they may soon enter heaven.
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