Good Samaritans practice corporal, spiritual works of mercy

On continuing to live out the Year of Reconciliation.

By Bishop Michael Pfeifer

   As a follow-up to our beautiful Year of Reconciliation for the Diocese of San Angelo, and as we remember and celebrate in our own lives the mercy that Jesus our King has manifested to each one of us, we are invited to have a new appreciation for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, and to make a new commitment to be people of mercy, people of compassion — we are invited simply to be good Samaritans. Our merciful King reminds us in the story of the sheep and the goats that our eternal happiness depends primarily on how we reached out and helped our neighbor with their basic human needs. Hence, I propose that a way to continue to live out this Year of Reconciliation far into the future is to give new emphasis to living some special works that today perhaps have been lost not only in our terminology, but also in our Christian practice. I am referring here and recommending that we give much more attention to what we call the spiritual and the corporal works of mercy. Let me say a word about the seven ways we can live out the corporal and the spiritual works of mercy.


First, we reflect on the corporal works of mercy which are rooted in Scripture and are an ancient expression of our love for God by caring for the physical needs of God’s children. These works embrace a compassionate way of life, a generous attitude toward those in need, whether near and dear to us or virtual strangers. These corporal works of mercy flow from what Jesus tells us in Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”  [Mt.25:35-36] 
   Let me remind you of the Corporal Works of Mercy:
   Feed the hungry.
   Give drink to the thirsty.
   Clothe the naked.
   Visit the imprisoned.
   Shelter the homeless.
   Visit the sick.
   Bury the dead.


Now let me say a few brief words about the seven spiritual works of mercy. These spiritual works of mercy help us to touch the hearts and souls of people in  need through our compassion, our care, and our concern. Just as God’s mercy brings hope and new life, we are called to bring that mercy to others through prayer, forgiveness, patience, consolation, or simply by our presence.  Here is a list of the seven traditional spiritual works of mercy:
   To teach the ignorant.
   To counsel the doubtful.
   To convert the sinner.
   To bear wrongs patiently.
   To forgive enemies.
   To comfort the sorrowful.
   To pray for the living and the dead.
   When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with the story of the Good Samaritan: A man was assaulted, robbed and left for dead. Two respected religious people passed by without helping. Then a third person, a Samaritan who was rejected, who was looked down upon by others and considered to be a heretic, stopped and provided assistance. He bandaged the victim, got him to an inn, and paid for his care. Then Jesus asked his questioner which one was the neighbor. “The one who showed…mercy. Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” [Lk 10:37]

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