Monday, October 24, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, July 17, 2016

We are now into Summer. Mostly hot and humid. Or VERY hot. So it is a good time for us to tidy up the last of the two Spiritual Works of Mercy, thereby completing my overview of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The two works we have not yet looked at are “Comfort the afflicted” and “Pray for the living and the dead.”

Comforting the afflicted is very broad. This can be accomplished just by spending time with someone who is sick or grieving or hurting in some way. Active listening is a wonderful way to comfort people who are hurting. You don’t need to give advice or answers or tell them what to do. In fact, it is better if you do not. Just listen. It is not as easy as it sounds, but it is very powerful, and it is healing. Sometimes a phone call or a note letting someone know you were thinking of them can be a positive work.  Who is afflicted in your family, neighborhood, school or work place? Who is lonely, upset, dejected, or hurting? I don’t think it will take you a long time to find the afflicted. The afflicted are all around us. And if you are one of the afflicted, you can still do this spiritual work of mercy. You don’t have to have your business and your life all together in order to do this. Sometimes the best healers are those who have been wounded themselves and so can empathize and understand more deeply another person’s hurt. Comforting the afflicted is a great spiritual work of mercy and something all of us can do. All we need is patience and acceptance.
The last work of mercy to look at is to pray for the living and the dead. That is because prayer makes a difference. It may not make a difference in the way we want or hope, but it does make a difference. This is because it makes God the Father very happy to see His children express their care and concern for each other. And no matter how rich or poor, no matter how educated or not you are, no matter how eloquent or not, no matter even how holy or not you are, you can pray for the living and for the dead.

Praying for the dead is a particularly Catholic (and Orthodox) thing to do. We know we do not change God’s mind. We know we cannot change the free choices of another. But we also know that we are not individual atoms unconnected to each other. Somehow we are all in this together, and the salvation of one depends on the salvation of all. There is a real bond between us. This is why we ask the saints to pray for us, and while we pray for each other, including our dead. The Holy Spirit connects us together as the one Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is stronger than death. So we pray for our friends, relatives, and even our enemies not only when they are here with us on earth, but even after their death. And we ask them to pray for us, because we are all connected in the grand scheme of the Kingdom of God.

And so we come to the end of our tour of the Works of Mercy. The important thing is not to able to name them or know about them but to DO them. Go and practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 

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