Tuesday, 15 December 2015


‘WORKING THE WORKS’ may seem to you a very ugly and clumsy title for any discourse or piece of writing! So let me explain: ‘THE WORKS’ are the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The ‘WORKING’ is the attitude, the approach, even the spirituality, of the person who sets about being merciful to those who in some way or another are in distress. 

 For my own sake and for yours I see the need to be clear about what we are getting into and how we should set about it.
On the 8th December 2015 Pope Francis launched a Jubilee Year of Mercy a Jubilee Year of Mercy. Commitment to what are known as the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy would be central to this.
"It is my burning desire,’ he wrote,” that, during this jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.”
 I wouldn’t blame anyone for asking what I am talking about. There was a time, a good number of years ago, when every Catholic child, including my brother and I, had to memorize the so-called   ‘Penny Catechism.’  That included:

The Corporal Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry, Give drink to the thirsty,  Clothe the naked, Shelter the homeless. Visit the sick, Visit the imprisoned,  Bury the dead.

And The Spiritual Works of Mercy: Admonish the sinner,  Instruct the ignorant, Counsel the doubtful, Comfort the sorrowful, Bear wrongs patiently, Forgive all injuries, Pray for the living and the dead.                           

My brother and I intend  to give you the Scriptural background to these named works of mercy when we offer a  meditation on each one of them. We want to make it clear that the two lists of Seven are indications of the ways we should be thinking. We should be open to naming  further  ones which have become prominent in recent times, e.g. in response to different  forms of discrimination and stigmatizing.

The Christian Spirituality inspiring these good deeds is the Imitation of Christ. The Acts of the Apostles tells us  ‘God had anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good,’ (Acts 10.38).

I find that from the writings of Pope Francis we can put together this marvelous ‘chain of thought:                                                                     
The Face of God is Face of Mercy; Human Face of Mercy is the  Face of Jesus           Today’s Face of Jesus is You and I as the Channels of Divine Mercy

    Here are a few pointers which should guide our approach to the Works of Mercy:
§  MERCIFUL LOVE   is the   WAY OF JESUS  as He reaches  out to those in any kind of distress.
§  In those to whom we show merciful love we are to see the person whom Jesus loves. We are even to see Jesus Himself – since He identifies with all those in distress of any kind.
§   In this  person- to-person contact there must be respect for the human dignity of the person who receives help and the one who gives help. 
§  This is far from a food voucher being posted to an unknown person who does not know who sent it.
§  As with merciful love we reach out to people in distress we must have the humility to recognize the limits to our own competence. We were never meant to fix every problem. We have to refer to those who are qualified. 
§    As far as it possible we must enable people to find answers to their own problems. It can be very oppressive if we give the impression that we are the ones who know what is best for them - what they ought to want.
§  Our spirituality must be expressed through a balanced humanity. We must studiously avoid a piety  that states that if you really had faith your toothache would go away.  Your faith should replace the need for you to take a pain-killer and for you to visit the dentist.
§  In other words OUR APPROACH TO BEING MERCIFUL MUST BE HOLISTIC – we are not to think of problem cases to be handled.
§  We are to think of people with their problems. Their sensibilities, their  feelings, emotions, and, most of all their, personal pride may all be part of their problems. All these must be taken into account and respected.
§  It is a wonderful  enrichment  for us to see people through the eyes of God and consciously to respond to them with something of  the merciful love of God.
§  We would do well  to recognize that Jesus works powerfully in and through people who have no belief  in God. 
The worst thing that could happen to the Church and its members would be to act as though it were an elite group of  ‘do-gooders!’

A last word – Jesus never treated anyone as though he or she were a nuisance to Him. Would to God the same could be true of me and, possibly, even of  you!


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