In his recent pastoral letter, “God’s Mercy Runs to Meet Us” Cardinal Sean made suggestions for concrete ways of carrying out each of the Church’s cherished corporal (bodily) and spiritual works of mercy. You can read the full pastoral letter, “God’s Mercy Runs to Meet Us” here also see Fr. Evans summary below.
Corporal Works of Mercy
- Feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty – Give funds to food pantries or meal centers. Organize a food drive. Pray for those who are hungry during grace at meals. Bring a meal to a homeless person that you often pass by. Join your parish’s Saint Vincent de Paul Society, or begin one, if your parish does not currently have this wonderful outreach ministry.
- Shelter the homeless – Get involved in the work to care for refugees. Support shelters in your area through gifts of time or treasure. Take in an elderly family member or friend in need. Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center such as Pregnancy Help in Boston.
- Clothe the naked – Make clothing donations to thrift stores. Organize a drive to send sport uniforms to poor countries. Sacrifice the purchase of new clothing and donate what you would have spent to agencies that provide clothing.
- Care for the sick – Visit family members and friends who are ill. Pray for the sick individually by name. Make meals for people who are facing difficult situations, perhaps due to the care of a sick loved one.
- Visit the imprisoned – Support prison ministry or join a team that visits prisons. Ask prison chaplains about someone that might appreciate receiving regular letters or a personal visit. Support Catholic media ministries that bring the teachings of the Church to the incarcerated.
- Bury the dead – Help Catholics get their plans in order (particularly if their next of kin is not a person of faith). Attend wakes and funerals. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Rosary with and for people who are near death. Visit cemeteries and offer prayers and Masses for those who have died.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
- Admonish the sinner (correct those who need correction) – Kindly speak up, with charity, against sinful and unjust practices in the culture. Love the sinner, hate the sin.
- Instruct the ignorant (teach the faith to others) – Hand on the faith to kids and grandkids through instruction and witness. Sign up to teach RCIA, confirmation, youth group or religious education at your parish. Encourage others to listen to Catholic programming on radio and television and to read Catholic publications.
- Counsel the doubtful (give advice to those who need it) – Have a heart for those who are struggling, confused or depressed. Help those looking for jobs and facing big decisions.
- Comfort the sorrowful (give comfort to those who suffer) – Call or visit friends in difficult situations or who may be lonely. Make meals or care packages. Write an encouraging note to someone in need of support.
- Bear wrongs patiently (be patient with others) – Practice loving patience with family members and co-workers. Hold your tongue or don’t honk your horn.
- Forgive all injuries (to forgive others who hurt you.) – Pray for all those who have hurt you. Invite estranged family members to gatherings. Don’t speak ill of others
- Pray for the living and the dead (to pray for everyone who needs our prayers) – Keep a list of people who need prayers close at hand. Have Masses celebrated for those in need or departed friends and family. Obtain an indulgence this year for family members or friends who have died.
GOD’S MERCY RUNS TO MEET US
Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s Pastoral Letter Year of Mercy
Summary [with a few added ideas] by Fr. George Evans, St. Julia Parish, Weston / Lincoln MA
A. INTRODUCTION: MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER
- This letter’s title refers to the Prodigal Son parable, which can be called the “Merciful Father” parable.
- The son’s demand for inheritance means he treats his father as dead. This is Jesus’ metaphor for sin.
- For us, “our repentance often walks along slowly.” Conversely, “God’s mercy runs to meet us.”
- “The young son is looking for freedom,” [but he gets himself more and more enslaved].
- The father’s stance is so different from that of the prevailing culture, which the older son upholds.
- The prevailing culture overly stresses law and harsh judgment, versus mercy. As then, so often now.
- Repentance & joy are strongly linked, for our repentance leads to new life. Sin is not the story’s end.
- In a Year of Mercy, will we 1) “come to our senses”? (the step the younger son needed to take) & 2) change how we view other sinners? (the step the older son needs to take)
- This letter will offer practical considerations for living a life of mercy and forgiveness.
B. THIS HOLY YEAR IS A JUBILEE OF MERCY.
- Holy years celebrate high points of Christian teaching. A jubilee year sets slaves free & absolves debts.
- Pope Francis’ key theme is this: “Mercy is the Lord’s most powerful message.”
- The Church’s very credibility is tested in its openness to show tenderness, compassion & mercy.
- Be not distracted or asleep when what’s needed to be shown is God’s presence, mercy, and closeness.
- Nothing in Church preaching/witness can lack mercy. [Tell how God/others have shown you mercy.]
- 2 crucial movements: 1) receive mercy; approach God & repent; experience joy of Jesus finding you 2) share mercy; become living witnesses to it / doers of it; that can be difficult
- “When we see with the eyes of mercy, we open the doors of our hearts” to others needing mercy.
- Our tasks are these: – live the social Gospel – preach & practice mercy – foster Gospel values in society – promote human dignity from conception to natural death – promote the family’s importance – advance common good – focus on reconciliation & forgiveness
- What Jesus teaches about mercy includes these important points:
- The first priority is proclaiming the Gospel to the poor, especially with care that is spiritual.
- Mercy comes from God. [It originates with God, its source. To God we need to look for it.]
- Jesus is Himself the face of the Father’s mercy, as seen in His words & deeds in the Bible.
- To be a true disciple, one must practice mercy quite concretely and regularly.
- Since the Father’s mercy is limitless, so should we try to make our mercy and forgiveness.
- If we practice mercy, mercy will become part of who we are. [It will characterize us.]
- When shown outreach & hospitality, the alienated may be attracted & may trust they’ll be welcome.
- Our personal prayer & reflection, on our need to lessen individualism & increase community, is key.
C. LIVING MERCY: THE CORPORAL & SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY
- Reflect on: What truly makes us happy? Why are we here? What God want us to do with our lives?
- Who does God want me to love? Everyone! – How does God want me to love? Do acts of mercy.
- Bring liberation to the oppressed and the captive, and particularly to the addicted.
D. THE YEAR OF MERCY IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON: [HOW TO LIVE IT OUT]
- Read about God’s mercy.
- Receive God’s mercy in Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Grant mercy to those who have hurt you.
- Bring others to receive God’s mercy this year.
- Make a pilgrimage to the Cathedral, enter the Holy Door there, and receive the Jubilee Indulgence.
- Practice each work of mercy at least once.
- Pray the pope’s prayer for the Jubilee of Mercy.
[Experience mercy, over and over, each Sunday at Mass.]
CONCLUSION: “Mercy is the beating heart of the Gospel.” “God’s mercy…[transforms] the world.”