Spiritual Works of Mercy

Beautiful MercyLast week I quoted from Beautiful Mercy, a collection of authors brought together by Matthew Kelly, about the Corporal Works of Mercy that exhort us to care for the hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick, imprisoned, and dead.

I suspect every one of us could practice one of the following Spiritual Works of Mercy daily, and our efforts would bring healing to our relationships. Parents, particularly, are constantly given chances to act with mercy for their children’s sakes as they instruct the ignorant or correct sinners. And, oh my, does anyone with siblings or coworkers not have to bear wrongs patiently sometimes? What teen doesn’t need counsel when the human weaknesses of authority figures cause them to doubt? Every marriage can benefit from both parties being willing to forgive offenses willingly and quickly! We struggle to comfort the afflicted as we walk with our friends through their illnesses and heartbreaks. The older we get, the more of each there seems to be. And how do we manage all this when so much is beyond our control? Sometimes all we can do, while at the same time the very greatest work we can do, is pray for the living and the dead.

By now these long posts probably seem daunting and are easy to put off for later. Instead, please read just one of the following each day and ponder the wisdom of the quotes.

Instruct the ignorant (unknowing, unaware)

  • Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6
  • Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. – Pope Blessed Paul VI
  • Instructing the ignorant aims to help each person find his or her role in this great story of salvation, giving him or her meaning and purpose—and ultimately a mission to do the same for others. – Sarah Swafford

Counsel the doubtful

  • To counsel means to assist someone in the act of deciding, not just to give vague or generic advice. Giving counsel to the doubtful is that work which helps the undecided to come to a good and upright decision rooted in the call to holiness and the goal of attaining Heaven by God’s grace. – Msgr. Charles Pope
  • We do not need a degree in theology or catechetics to counsel the doubtful. We all know that some of the most convincing people of faith have been the simplest individuals we’ve known. They just love God and their neighbor and live straight from the heart. … God doesn’t need us to defend him, but these hurting doubters do need our forbearance. People should be able to say of us: “If your God is anything like you, I want to know him.” – Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

Correct sinners

  • Are you a sinner? So am I. That is a good place to begin. – Matthew Kelly
  • Whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:20
  • The key is to recover what it means to be merciful in our communication of truth. Are we patient and self-sacrificing with those who need to hear the truth? Are we courteous and do we avoid a confrontational style that will easily lead to closed hearts and minds? Do we recognize our own weakness and sin in humility? Are you prepared to gently and reverently reveal what God has done in your life? Are you deeply aware of your own need for a savior? Love builds a bridge over which truth can pass. – Daniel Burke


Bear wrongs patiently

  • Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9
  • On earth, did Jesus act out of a sense of fairness? No, he acted out of love. For love to endure it must be patient, especially in the face of injustice. – Matthew Kelly
  • The wounds we have received didn’t come about overnight, and the healing won’t take place overnight either. It takes time, perseverance, and determination. … Regardless of where you have been or what you have done, be at peace. The only sin God won’t forgive is the one you will not ask forgiveness for. – Matt Fradd

Forgive offenses willingly

  • The Our Father is an incredibly powerful prayer. Pray it slowly, and let the words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” sink deep into your heart. – Matthew Kelly
  • Mercy is required when we are faced with the inexcusable and tempted to declare those offenses unforgivable. When we experience the scandalous, unjust, lavish, outrageous mercy of God at the depth of our being, it will utterly transform us. Our attempts to hold on to past grievances and harden our hearts to those who have caused us injury will seem to be mere comedy. – Fr. James Mallon
  • While forgiveness is a decision, an act of the will, it is rarely an event. For many of us, forgiveness is a process. First, a person has to realize that he has been hurt. Second, since mercy is rooted in justice, one needs to weigh what the other person “owes” him. Third, he or she is called to make this one decision: “While justice demands that you give me what you owe me, I will not make you pay me back. I release you from your debt.” You may have to repeat this process many times for the same offence. But each time you do, you will become more and more free, and you will become more and more an image of Jesus Christ himself, who forgives our offenses willingly. – Fr. Mike Schmitz

Comfort the afflicted

  • Blessed be…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:4
  • In the midst of a sin-saturated world, people need to know that they matter, that their pain matters, that they are seen. … What a difference the presence of a comforter can make. … Nothing makes us more effective ministers of comfort than having suffered ourselves. Not one of your tears of pain will be wasted if you allow them to be redeemed in the life of another. God can use every ounce of what you have been through to make this world a better, kinder place. – Lisa Brenninkmeyer
  • To step out of my own needs and my own preoccupation and take notice, and then to move into another’s life with comfort, is not only a revelation of the nature of the universe and the God who freely chose to create it, it is also the key to unlocking God’s mercy in our own lives. – Curtis Martin

Pray for the living and the dead

  • The basic belief is that nothing, neither life nor death, separates us from the love of Christ (see Romans 8:35). Praying for the faithful departed is an expression of great love in Christ. – John Michael Talbot
  • Perhaps one of the greatest joys of heaven will be seeing how much of a difference our prayers made, even the distracted and perfunctory ones. … Our deceased loved ones go to the judgement seat of Christ. And that is worth praying about! How consoling and merciful our prayers must seem to our beloved who have died! – Msgr. Charles Pope


Blessings on your final week of Lent!

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