By Deacon John Rangel
“Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:37-40)
One day I offered a homily at our parish’s weekly school children’s morning mass. The gospel reading for the day happened to be from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25. To emphasize the first of Jesus’ precepts, to feed the hungry, I mentioned that every minute of the day seventeen people in the world die from hunger. Of those seventeen people, thirteen of them were children! Death by starvation is still a very real and deplorable occurrence in the world especially in those countries without the wealth and abundance that we enjoy here in the USA. This begs the question “What are we doing about it?”
Jesus instructs us in his final discourse not only to feed the hungry but to be sensitive to and address other needs of our less fortunate brothers and sisters. These are called the Corporal Works of Mercy. Men, I pray that each and every one of us not only have these embedded in our hearts but practice them in our daily lives. Our school children were very good about knowing the corporal works of mercy… do you?
All too often our knowledge of the works of mercy starts and stops with the corporal works. This is understandable because these address temporal needs, needs that we can see, feel, or touch. Now here’s the challenge! How many of us know and practice the Spiritual Works of Mercy. I drew complete silence from our school children with this question. And yet, are not these works more important because they address the eternal life of our brothers and sisters?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states “Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving, and bearing wrongs patiently. (CCC 2447)* The first four require that we interact with others on matters of faith, morals and church teaching. The last three are personal, individual actions that we undertake with God’s grace.
The works of mercy, God’s precepts, challenge us to move outside of our comfort zone, to be sensitive to the temporal and spiritual needs of our neighbors. For when we do it for the least of these we do it for Jesus.
… as we continue our journey to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, let’s ask ourselves these questions:
• Does Christ’s judgment talk make me uneasy? Should it?
• How often am I aware of Christ’s presence in others?
• What should I do when Christ comes to me through difficult people?
May you be blessed with the peace of Christ.
Deacon John Rangel is Director of Mission for Catholic Men Chicago Southland
Note* Mt 18:15; Mt 6:14; Isa 58:6-7; Heb 13:3
*2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.242 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.243 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God: 244 (1460, 1038, 1969, 1004)
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