The Works of Mercy. What are we doing about it?

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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Living the Christian Lifestyle by Bishop Joseph N. Perry

One practical reason for a religious focus in life is to build up the kind of inner strength required to prevent the unsavory features of the popular culture from swallowing us up. We live in a time of tremendous cultural pressure that is, in a number of respects, anti-Christian. The spirit of the world is powerful and unrelenting and there is little society support for those who choose to reject the spirit of the world and embrace the spirit of God. This is not a popular choice and as a result it can often lead to certain loneliness in our lives. If we are going to be true to our values, if we are going to celebrate and defend a virtuous life we need to build up certain strength within us. This inner strength will allow us to resist the culture pressures to abandon our values, our true selves, and God. We do this by the study of God’s Word, the reception of his anointing in the sacraments, solid spiritual reading and from wise persons who are already living the Christian life.

Jesus was anxious about the “world” as a menace to his disciples. He spoke of this in his prayer to his Father during the Last Supper: “… Father, I gave them your message and the world has hated them for it because they do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. I do not ask you to take them out of the world but I do ask you to keep them safe from the Evil One.”  John 17, 14-15

The world God has given us is a beautiful world in every respect, yet we know this same world sometimes turns ugly by reason of the misdeeds of men. This world provides much that is good yet some other things are distractions from the God who created this world. And still some other things are downright evil while being, at the same time, very attractive to us. Christians have always been interested in engaging the world in order to save it for God who came to redeem the world.

It may appear to be something of a riddle. The stamp left on us by the popular culture is a mixed experience. We are drawn to the this-worldly in all its allurements. We are made to think that all that is popular is also good precisely because it is American and free and affordable or legal. We know we can be deceived as well as our children and grandchildren can be deceived. So, we come to church for direction to put all things in proper perspective so that the road-map to the kingdom can remain for us clear and uncluttered. It is a wise man who can sort out the goodness of the world from the evil the world generates.

If we are going to walk with God and become good Christians we need an inner strength which seems to come from a combination of grace and discipline. This strength is not something we can attain for ourselves; it is a gift God freely gives us when we cooperate with His plan for our lives. When we have this strength within us we will have a Christian effect on our families and other acquaintances. When we don’t have this strength, then the environment has an effect on us. So true is that saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything!”

We stand for Christ and his message. The centrality of Christ in human history and in our individual lives is no small discovery, nor is it just one of many ideas. It is a fact that has been tried and tested, and the results are truly awe inspiring.

We pray to gather inner strength to survive and thrive in a culture that is often hostile and sometimes violent toward what is good and true and pure. We simply cannot survive in our crazy, noisy, busy world without the sanctuary of prayer and reflection to refresh ourselves and keep ourselves focused on Christ.

 

 

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Taking Life Seriously

We hear a lot these days about “intentional discipleship” from preachers, motivational speakers and writers about what it takes to be real Christians in these times.  These speakers highlight for us the increasing secularism of American life, namely, that the modern mind-set is intent on pushing away a religious tone to life as evident in state and federal legislation that advances freedoms beyond that which the scriptures would countenance, or the lifestyles of people we know and love, matched with decreasing numbers attending church or synagogue or mosque.  We Americans believe in God to large percentage even though our actions may not always clearly represent that belief.

We are aware, as strident Christians have always been aware these two thousand years, that the popular culture presses up against us in ways religious belief and lifestyle cannot endorse. We are faced daily with choices and decisions none too easy to make.  Political and religious leadership sometimes don’t help to model us citizens with their decisions and law making and lifestyles.  Even our children and grandchildren make choices opposite the way we have reared them.  What to do?  Pray fervently and daily, certainly.  In the meantime:

Intentional discipleship means that we take the message of Jesus Christ seriously and apply it to our lives to the best of our ability without equivocation while encouraging others to do the same.  This is evangelization.  We stake our lives on the gospel vision of life. We have lived the gospel all our lives and find consolation in its truth.  We are so convinced of this we had our children baptized in this faith.  We practice this faith day-in-and-day-out. The vision and message of Christ shows itself in our homes, the way we live, the way we spend our money and give some of it away, the way we assess and comment on current events some indeed tragic.  Gospel truth shows itself in our devotion to our spouses and children, our charity and forgiveness of others, our managerial relationship with others, our choices at the ballot box and the counsel we give others.

Indeed, nothing is worthwhile unless we do it intentionally and with fervor as upright Christians.  This is the manner in which Jesus lived and died for us.  It is the only way his disciples can live authentically his legacy.
 
Bishop Joseph N. Perry

 

 

 

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What Is A CMCS Man?

Come Holy Spirit, Command Me To Do Your Will.

 

If you’ve been to the Catholic Chicago Men’s Conference, then you’ve been challenged to bring the encounter home. To make a commitment to ‘Living the Goodness of a Catholic Man’, and to be a CMCS Man.

CMCS is Catholic Men Chicago Southland, and who is the sponsor of the Catholic Chicago Men’s Conference. What this means is that although our men’s conference and our online real estate is open and available to Catholic men of Chicagoland, our apostolate has a main focus offline to foster the holiness of Catholic men on the south end of the archdiocese of Chicago.

But don’t let the title of CMCS Man create barriers for you, it’s simply what we call it. In the same way, we call a parish leader the man who coordinates men’s ministry in his parish. This could be a men’s group who meets on a regular basis, or a one time event such as a parish prayer breakfast (that we can help you with).

The main purpose though of a CMCS Man is how you put your Faith into action. How you engage with other Catholic men, for example, meet other guys about your Faith weekly or monthly, or for Men’s Bible study in our homes.

When you attend the conference we give you the A Man’s Prayer’ prayer card. Men tell us that when they pray this each day it transforms their life, usually with an outward thinking mindset rather than inward on self.  If you’d like us to send you more prayer cards, both English and Spanish, for your men’s group or your parish contact us.

The other resource is Bishop Perry’s Virtues of a Catholic Man. The method we suggest is to ‘perfect’ each Virtue in any order until you have them all completed (mastered). This becomes very rewarding and always a work in progress, yet what comes with it is your spiritual nurturing to make Christ the center of your life. God will speak to your heart, you will see.

One thing that CMCS has established since day one is how the purpose of a non-profit mission statement is to transform a person, from good intentions, into right-action.  For this reason we provide encouragement though the CMCS Letter and archive. You can also call or email us for support in your Catholic walk. I personally meet with men weekly over coffee to help them with discernment towards growing in holiness.

We invite you to contact us about your spiritual growth or if you’re looking for ideas relating to men’s spirituality. Please know that Bishop Perry and the CMCS Team are praying for you always!

The Annual Men’s Conference is really the by-product of all we do at CMCS. The life adjustments that we all make the rest of the year determines our spiritual life, and determines the impact we have with our family and our community. We’ve known this to have an impact for up to three generations.  So this, right here, is the core and virtues of the CMCS Man.

Thank you very much for your interest, and valuable time and investment in what it means to be a CMCS Man!

Frank J Casella, CMCS Executive Director
Co-Founder Catholic Chicago Men’s Conference

 

Photo: Frank J Casella © All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

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Your Struggle Is Part Of Your Story

We all go through the dark moments in life. If you’re like me, you try to take the easy way out in moving towards the light. The thing is, often times until we go through the struggles we really don’t learn the full story.

For example, in times of struggles I often prayed for God to show me the way, but I never seemed to find any answers. Often times, after the fact, it is revealed to me that because I didn’t wait on God in His timing that I missed out on the blessing. Because I tried to avoid what I thought would experience pain or challenge.

Had I meant what I prayed for God to show the way, and not take it back as soon as I gave it to Him, because this is the easy way, then people and circumstances would have come into my path to show the way … and the rest of the story would be revealed.

I have lived through job layoffs, health setbacks, car accidents, people and their shortcomings, long-term unemployment, marriage issues, and the inevitable short on money when there is an ’emergency’ need, to name a few. In all of these I have learned that my viewpoint is not always God’s viewpoint. That I’m usually focused on my needs, and God is focused on using my circumstance to bring others into relationship with him, in addition to meeting my immediate need.

One other thing I’ve learned from all this is that, many times we struggle because we don’t know our life mission. That when we know our mission, some people call this your ‘why’, and we find a way to serve others through our mission, then we have less struggles in life. Because many times serving others without a mission we are fighting ourselves or getting in our own way. We should see others through our mission to know how to best serve them.

Broken relationships, for example, are like a vase that falls off the table and breaks into many small pieces. Depending how we look at it, if we try to put the vase (relationship) back together piece by piece seeking for God to show us through the struggle, instead of looking at serving self before the other person or giving up and taking the easy way out, that vase has the potential to become a beautiful mosaic.

You have to decide how important the struggle is to you, and grow through it, and how much you want God to complete the story in your life.

Jesus had to go onto the Cross to do the will of God. This struggle that He encountered was and is a part of His story. What struggles have you experienced that are a part of your story?

Reflect for a moment on how you can better allow God to radiate His love for a beautiful life from your past struggles and storms.

God’s will is that we depend on Him.

 

Frank J Casella is Co-founder of Catholic Chicago Men’s Conference, and Executive Director of Catholic Men Chicago Southland Apostolate.

 

 

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