​​Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy

"The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food must do likewise (Lk 3:11). But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you (Lk 11:41). If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? (Jas 2:15-16; cf. 1 Jn 3:17)"
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447

Corporal Works of Mercy

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous ' – Matthew 25:35-40

  1. Feed the hungry – "Feed the hungry (cf. Mt 25: 35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church, as she responds to the teachings of her Founder, the Lord Jesus, concerning solidarity and the sharing of goods. The right to food, like the right to water, has an important place within the pursuit of other rights, beginning with the fundamental right to life. It is therefore necessary to cultivate a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination." – Pope Benedict, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), 27.
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  2. Give drink to the thirsty – Water plays an important role in Scripture, representing Jesus' desire to return to the Father "O God…my soul thirsts for you" (Ps 63:1). Water also serves as an important symbol in the New Testament, reminding us of the hope of freedom ("They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; / the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat" (Rev 7:16)) and as a means of purification, through the waters of baptism.

    As Christians, we have a responsibility to ensure access to safe drinking water is a priority: "Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity." – Laudato Si', 30
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  3. Clothe the naked – The Bible encourages an attitude of compassion toward nakedness: "Give of your bread to the hungry, and of your clothing to the naked" (Tb 4:16) or "when you see the naked, cover him" (Is 58:7) and praises those who "cover the naked with a garment" (Ez 18:16). In contrast, clothing, particularly white clothing, is often used to mark beings associated with God.
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  4. Shelter the homeless (Welcome the Stranger) – "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" – Matthew 25:35. Because each person is loved by God and has inherent dignity, we are called to welcome strangers with the love of God and implore our friends to do likewise (Lk 11:5)
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  5. Visit the sick – "Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death." – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1500.
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  6. Ransom the captive (Visit the Imprisoned) – "I was in prison and you came to me" (Mt 25:36). We are called to closeness with those in prison, primarily through our prayers: "remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them" (Heb 13:3).
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  7. Bury the dead – In Judaism, it was a pious practice to bury the dead, as being deprived of burial was seen as a horrible evil (Ps 79:3). The Book of Tobit speak of this practice (1:16 and 12:12)
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Spiritual Works of Mercy

1)      Instruct the ignorant – "Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone instructs me?'" – Acts 8:30-31

"It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition." The most urgent task today is "to lead people to discover both their capacity to know the truth and their yearning for ultimate and definitive meaning of life." - St. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 48 and 102
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2)     Counsel the doubtful – "If we look at the present time, we can perhaps say what is most urgent to council, provoking questions, in particular questions concerning the meaning of life and the future, "the fundamental questions which pervade human life: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?" - St. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 1.
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3)     Admonish sinners - "If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector." – Matthew 18:15-17. Also known as "fraternal correction," admonishing sinners should never be done as a judgement, but as a service of truth and love, addressing the sinner not as an enemy, but a brother.
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4)     Bear wrongs patiently – "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, / and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." (Pv 16:32).

To patiently endure in a free and loving way a relationship with someone who is annoying, unfriendly, boring, sluggish, uncouth, is in line with the love of enemy. It is also an art when this attitude encourages reflection on oneself to discover within us that which is also annoying and unbearable.
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5)     Forgive offences willingly – Love of enemies is Jesus' most demanding requirement and often considered the hallmark of Christian life and conduct. During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis reminds us of the importance of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation: "So many people, including young people, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives. Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the centre once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God's mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace." - Misericordiae Vultus, 17
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6)     Comfort the afflicted – God comforts us with the kindness of a shepherd, the affection of a father, the ardor of a bridegroom and a husband and the tenderness of a mother. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ's sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow." (2 Cor 1:3-5)
Lived out in the Archdiocese of Toronto

7)      Pray for the living and the dead – "Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him… Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2560 and 2564.

 

Source:

Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, 2015.