Thursday, 10 December 2015


Pope Benedict XV1’s Encyclical, "God is Love" pulled me up with a jolt. There he wrote, "The Church's deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments and exercising the ministry of charity. These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being." (‘Deus Caritas Est’ [25]).

In other words, the Ministry of Charity is as much a distinctive a mark of the Church as are the Ministries of the Word and of the Sacraments.

More recently, in proclaiming a Year of Mercy, Pope Francis urged us to re-discover the vital importance the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy in the life of the Church, and in that of each of us –its members.

Thus Pope Francis wrote, "It is my burning desire that, during this jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these Works of Mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as His disciples," (‘Vultus Dei’ [12] ).

St. Matthew’s Gospel Ch. 25 is the primary source for our understanding the Corporal Works of Mercy. There Jesus tells us that He identifies with those who are in any kind of need; in them He cries to us for help. As we respond to their needs we, the Church, identify with the compassionate Jesus and continue His caring ministry. So, in every such encounter there’s a dialogue between Jesus begging for mercy and Jesus in us, through us, responding to that appeal. At different times most of us can identify with Christ the giver and Christ the receiver of compassion. Each meets Christ in the other. To each of us baptized persons Pope Saint Leo the Great would say, "Oh, Christian, remember your own dignity; Oh, Christian, remember each other's dignity!"

As a small contribution to the forthcoming Year of Mercy we Dominican twin brothers, Peter and Isidore, will post our personal reflections on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. It would be cosy, but useless, if we simply talked and thought about them. We have been called to put these Works of Mercy into action. It easily happens that this responsibility is left to Church organisations. That’s especially true of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. But if mercy is the ‘Face of God,’ then this must be reflected in each one of us, whom He has made in His own image and likeness. Otherwise we won’t be His true sons and daughters.

We invite you not merely to read these meditations but to take them to heart and put them into practice. We dare to suggest Pope Francis would expect nothing less of you –and us!

Isidore Clarke O.P.

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