"Because relationship with God implies relationship among people, mercy is the loving kindness and service we owe each other."
We are so thankful that Building Faith draws readers and writers from many different Christian denominations. Below, Sue Hinderlider describes the Year of Mercy currently being celebrated in the Roman Catholic tradition. For Catholic readers, this will likely be familiar. For readers of other faith traditions, we hope you find Sue's description educational and inspiring.
Mercy from the Heart
What is the Jubilee Year of Mercy? In the spring of 2015, Pope Francis announced that 2016 would be a Jubilee Year, called "The Year of Mercy." Technically the year runs from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016. It is a holy year filled with special celebrations, along with a call to experience God’s grace through conversion, repentance, and reaching out as vessels of God’s mercy in our hurting world.
What is Mercy?
Mercy is a willingness to help those in need simply because they are in need. It is always connected with the Divine Presence, grounded in relationship established by the covenant between God and his people through the sacrament of Baptism. Because relationship with God implies relationship among people, mercy is the loving kindness and service we owe each other.
In the Roman Catholic tradition, there are seven corporal works of mercy – these come from the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. In addition, there are seven spiritual works of mercy, which come forth from early Church teachings. Each of these works of mercy is an invitation to deepen our relationship with God by deepening our relationship with our brothers and sisters.
Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
Remember that corporal refers to the body, so these works of mercy usually involve physical actions. For each of the works, I have included some of my own ideas and suggestions for practicing it.
Feed the Hungry Ideas: Donate non-perishable food items to a local food pantry. Decide as a family not to eat out during Lent and contribute the money saved to Food for the Poor, Heifer International, or another social service organization. Volunteer to deliver for Meals on Wheels.
Give Drink to the Thirsty Ideas: Donate to the American Red Cross for disaster relief efforts. Keep bottled water in your car to hand out to the homeless.
Shelter the Homeless Ideas: Coordinate the collection of personal care items to donate to a homeless shelter. Volunteer as a family to help Habitat for Humanity. Consider fostering or adopting a homeless pet from the local animal shelter or donate old blankets.
Visit the Sick Ideas: Contact a local nursing home and schedule a time for your family to visit and lead a sing-a-long for the residents. Send a card to a member of your parish who is homebound.
Visit the Prisoners Ideas: If direct prison ministry is not available to you, take time to visit an elderly neighbor who may be recovering from surgery or illness. Prepare a meal to share with a member of your parish who is homebound.
Bury the Dead Ideas: Send a sympathy card to the family of someone who has recently died. Call or visit someone on the anniversary of their loved one’s death.
Give Alms to the Poor Ideas: Participate in Operation Rice Bowl. Clean out your closets and donate usable clothing, toys, and household items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army to help fund their ministry.
Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy
The spiritual works of mercy invite us to a deeper relationship with another and may require some creative thinking to live out. These are just a few ideas how to live mercy from the heart.
Counsel the Doubtful Ideas: This may lead you to examine how you witness your faith in daily life. Perhaps a co-worker is struggling and needs a listening ear.
Instruct the Ignorant Ideas: Volunteer to help with faith formation programs in your parish. Read from the Bible as a family.
Admonish the Sinner Ideas: Do not be arrogant when correcting someone. Do not be judgmental of the actions of another.
Comfort the Sorrowful Ideas: Take time to listen to someone who is going through a difficult time. Smile at the people you meet.
Forgive Injuries Ideas: Let go of grudges. Say I’m sorry when you have hurt someone and I forgive you when someone has hurt you. Consider celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) before Easter.
Bear Wrongs Patiently Ideas: Instead of reacting to a situation, step back and take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, then calmly respond. Decide as a family how you will respond to hurtful situations.
Pray for the Living and the Dead Ideas: Keep a book of intentions that your family will pray for on a daily basis. Adopt a seminarian as a prayer partner.
Read More about the Year of Mercy
For more information on the Year of Mercy, check out the following online sources.
Sue Hinderlider is a freelance consultant to parishes in the areas of catechesis and spirituality. She holds an MA in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. Sue is a member of Christ Our King and Savior Catholic Church in Greensboro, Georgia. Visit her blog at momentsministry.wordpress.com.
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