You did this for me

This Holy Year of Mercy is all about being mercy! St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 25: 31-46, reminds us how we can become mercy for others. Jesus tells us that God is found in every person. Therefore, how we treat and love our neighbor is how we treat and love God! We do this through the Works of Mercy.

I like to think of mercy as love in action. Doesn’t that sound like charity? It most certainly is! The Works of Mercy are acts of love. Let’s take a look at each Work of Mercy and see how we can live them in our everyday lives. You are going to be surprised that many of them, if not all of them, you already do on a daily basis. 

In this article I will focus on the Corporal Works of Mercy and how we can help with the physical needs of others. I will conclude with the Spiritual Works of Mercy in my next column.

Feeding the hungry: This isn’t just about hunger pains where some food satisfies us. It’s also about the hunger to know God. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by to share your story of the God Who loves you and how you are witness to His love. Throughout our diocese many of you volunteer at soup kitchens. Adults and children go to bed on a full stomach because of your mercy. But, also, their hearts are full because of the love you gave and the hope you renewed in them that someone out in the world still cares. “For I was hungry and you gave Me food” (Mt 25:35).

Giving drink to the thirsty: Water quenches our physical thirst. God’s Word so satisfies our Spiritual thirst that we will never be thirsty again. We all know people, friends and family alike, that long for satisfaction, and, sadly, many turn to vices such as sex, drugs and alcohol to satisfy their thirst for acceptance and love. Often we are afraid to speak to them about these bad habits so as not to hurt their feelings, or worse, lose their friendship. It is a greater injustice, and a sin, to remain silent. Help them to heal their wounds. If we remain complacent the loss could be far greater than just hurting someone’s feelings. Remember, our faults are not only the things we do, but also the things we fail to do. “I was thirsty and you gave Me drink” (Mt 25:35).

Clothing the naked: Everyone is deserving of dignity. It’s so much more than giving the shirt off your back or the shoes on your feet. It’s about restoring faith in humanity by giving every person the God-given dignity they were born with. It takes little effort and, sometimes, little sacrifice on our part, to go through our closets once a year and donate the clothes we rarely wear or have worn at all. This is a great act of mercy. But, let’s take it a step further; let’s clothe the naked with dignity and respect. Offer your shirt, and a warm embrace. Offer your shoes, and walk with them. “I was naked and you clothed Me” (Mt 25:36).

Sheltering the homeless: It is a wonderful feeling knowing that every night we have a bed to sleep in and a home to keep us safe and warm. I have yet to understand how and why society allows so many of our brothers and sisters to remain without shelter. We need to be more hospitable. We need to be more aware of this often-neglected issue. We, God’s family, must be home for our own and for the lonely, disabled, elderly and outcasts. We call one another brothers and sisters in Christ. What does that really mean to you? “I was a stranger and you welcomed Me” (Mt 25:35).

Visiting the sick: No one likes to be lonely. We all need company to pick us up and put a smile on our face. Visiting someone who is sick at home or in the hospital or the elderly in nursing homes is a great way to live this Work of Mercy. But let’s turn that visit into something more: run errands for those who are unable to do it themselves; read a book, play a game, pray with them. You’re unable to visit them personally? Pick up the phone and let them hear your caring voice. These are all ways to help heal the sick in both mind and body. “I was ill and you cared for Me” (Mt 25:36).

Visiting the imprisoned: Those in prison suffer from the loss of freedom. They are paying for their crime; they are doing their Penance. But, do we ignore them? (Remember the brother and sister thing?) Their time in prison is a time for rehabilitation. We can help them with that. Your visit, your letter, your care package, etc., are all acts and gifts of love they may not have received before. Show them that you, the community and the world, still care. And don’t forget their families — pray for them and visit them too. “I was in prison and you visited Me” (Mt. 25:36). 

Burying the dead: We show respect for the bodies of the dead, since during life, they were temples of the Holy Spirit and received the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. Going to wakes and funerals, treating cemeteries with respect, keeping gave sites clean and beautiful are all acts of living this work of mercy. “Taking the Body, Joseph wrapped it [in] clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock” (Mt 27:59-60).

Blessed Mother Teresa often referred to Matthew’s Gospel as the “Gospel of One Hand” by putting out her fingers and counting off the words: “You did this for me.” To be mercy is to love! To love is to see God in everyone! “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of Mine, you did for Me” (Mt 25:40). God bless!

Anchor columnist Ozzie Pacheco is Faith Formation director at Santo Christo Parish, Fall River.

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