Works of Mercy



“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” St. Teresa of Avila

We are called in so many ways to leave the footprints of Christ on the world and in the hearts of people we meet. While our awareness of the brokenness of humanity is a good start, it is not enough simply to know - we must also act.

"If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:15-17

I know I am often lulled into complacency because there is SO MUCH brokenness - just turn on the news! Jesus reminds us, too, that the poor will always remain with us. I'm convinced, though, that it is not out of a lack of mercy from God, but rather a reminder to us that Jesus comes to us in "distressing disguise," as Blessed Mother Teresa used to say. If we do not have the poor among us, it becomes too easy to think we have no need - material, spiritual or otherwise. The truth is that we are always in need, and each of us is always afflicted in some way. We are restless until we rest in Him (thanks, St. Augustine for that insight).


The question becomes, then, what do we do and how do we do it? Rachel Martin, who writes at Finding Joy, has a mantra to help moms from getting overwhelmed or discouraged: "do one thing." I think her advice is wise for us in this aspect as well. Pick one thing from each list you and your family can do. What is your passion? Whose story intrigues you? What situations enrage or sadden you? Those can be cues to where you are being called to act. There is much work to be done, but if each of us takes a small part the load becomes a lot lighter and the world can become much brighter with the million flames of light burning out on the mountaintops in the name of Christ. Set the world ablaze, my friends!


Need help getting inspired or learning more about the Works of Mercy? Check out these books:

Mark Shea, The Work of Mercy
Fr. Andrew Apostoli, What to Do When Jesus is Hungry
Jane Knuth, Thrift Store Saints
Dr. Paul A. Wright, Mother Teresa's Prescription: Finding Happiness And Peace in Service
Bernard Jean, Priestblock 25847: A Memoir of Dachau

Have others which inspire your to live out the corporal and spiritual works? Let me know in the comments!

IMPORTANT NOTE: I should mention that the first three Spiritual Works of Mercy - "instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners" - should be done with compassion and proper theological training lest we get a log in our own eye or tie a millstone around our own neck! Those are not an opportunity to get on our soapboxes - it's about mercy, not judgment. Truly, as we engage in the works of mercy, all our actions (spiritual and corporal) should be deeply rooted in prayer to remove ourselves and our will/needs from what we are being asked to do. It is, after all, about the other and most importantly about Christ.

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