Bishop Ralph – the Corporal Works of Mercy – Sheffield Catholic Cathedral.
In the Decree to launch the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis highlights what are traditionally known as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with these words:
‘It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy….. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples’. MV15
Jesus preached the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, both in his words and his actions. Perhaps the sharpest focus of his preaching on the corporal works of mercy is to be found in one of the best known passages from St Matthew’s gospel – the scene of the Last Judgement. There we find listed six of the seven corporal works of mercy; feeding the hungry, quenching the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and welcoming the stranger.
So let us take up Pope Francis’ invitation and spent a few moments reflecting on the corporal works of mercy and what they might mean for us today.
Feed the Hungry
Sadly, many people around the world still go hungry every day. In contrast, in is estimated that we throw away seven million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, the majority of which could be eaten and costs us 12.5bn. So a question for us all might be: how might our better steward our own food habits to benefit those who have not?
Give drink to the Thirsty
Adverts in our newspapers and on TV remind us that there are many of our brothers and sisters around the world do not have access to clean water, and of the dreadful illnesses they suffer as a result. We may not be able to help directly, but we are in a position to support the efforts of those who work to make this basic commodity ready to those who have not.
Shelter the Homeless
There are many reasons that lead to someone finding themselves without a home: unemployment, breakdown in a relationship, a mental illness, fleeing oppressive regimes. We are encouraged to welcome those without a home and help them find a solution to the challenges that face them. This a very real challenge for us at present, given the movement of migrants.
Visit the Sick
If you take even the most casual look at the gospel you cannot help notice Jesus special concern for the sick. In our society sometimes the sick are forgotten or even, in some cases, avoided. But we all know from our experience that in visiting the sick we often receive more than we give.
People in prison are also made in the image and likeness of God. They are entiled to hear the Word of God and be encouraged, consoled and challenged by the gospel. We may not all see ourselves in prison ministry but we can support with our prayers those who do.
Bury the Dead
It is hard to lose someone in death and it is only right for us to express our grief when we do. It is also important to support those who have lost loved ones with our presence and our prayers. It is in such moments we express our solidarity with those who are experiencing the pain of loss, our respect for life and our belief in the Resurrection.
We are just beginning the second week of Lent. Maybe you are still looking for something different to do this Lent. Why not try one of the corporal works of mercy?
In Christ the Redeemer,