Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Works of Mercy

Some words of wisdom in this week's Arlington Catholic Herald by the spiritual director of the diocese's Hispanic community, Rev. José Eugenio Hoyos (English translation by Rebel Girl)...

Our world today should create a new culture based on the Works of Mercy, a culture of social justice and solidarity that benefits everyone. The Church suggests that we practice and live out the Works of Mercy at each and every moment and occasion.

There are fourteen Works of Mercy. The spiritual ones are: instructing the ignorant, counseling those who need it, correcting the sinner, forgiving all injuries, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying to God for the living and the dead.

The corporal ones are: visiting and caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the pilgrims, clothing the naked, redeeming the captives, and burying the dead.

We don't do good works to please God or to appease Him. We do good works because God is love and we yearn to live in God. Through sharing our love with others, we meet the living God. James the Apostle made it quite clear that faith is Jesus should translate into good works. "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 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. Indeed someone may say, 'You have faith and I have works. Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.'" (James 2:14-18)

The most important Works of Mercy are not the sort of things that happen by accident. For them to happen, we have to take the initiative. The goal of all the Works of Mercy is to change society so that it reflects how God wants us to live with each other. God's merciful love transforms us.

When we share that merciful love with others, we are sharing in the work of God that transforms the world. For example, social justice is about people living in a correct and proper relationship with God and others. Social justice is the Gospel in action. By virtue of our baptism, we are called to be activists, to an activism motivated by love, not anger or vengeance.

Before changing civil laws, each one of us should live in conformity with God's law of love. The Catholic Church has a long tradition of applying the Gospel to various social situations, such that it is possible to change society.

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