It is a simple question that has generated more questions for me rather than a simple and direct answer. I started close to home. How would my spouse and children answer that question in regard to how I loved them? Did they experience genuine love, care, and compassion from me? Did I set an example for them to follow? Realizing that I had much work to do in this area alone prompted me to stop from reflecting any further. However, the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the Works of Mercy were still beckoning my attention. Wow! There was no doubt that this was going to be an interesting examination of conscience. (This started out as preliminary study for developing a homily; apparently there needs to be some preaching directed right at myself before proceeding. Ouch!)
I pulled my Bible off the shelf and read the Sermon on the Mount followed by a review of the Ten Commandments. One could obviously spend a huge chunk of time with either one of those passages, but I was prompted to move on to the Works of Mercy for a more specific and direct look at, “How did I love?” The journey through these acts of mercy did not disappoint. I invite you to walk with me in reflecting upon the seven Corporal Works of Mercy. We’ll tackle the Spiritual Works of Mercy another time.
Corporal Works of Mercy
Feed the Hungry
Share what you have with those who need it. There are folks around the world who need our help. Right now, that would be the people of the Philippines after the typhoon devastated their country. Let’s also not forget the people in our own backyard who need our help. The economic downturn has certainly created a greater need for consistent charity to our local food-banks.
Give Drink to the Thirsty
Share your joy and hope with those whose lives are dry and lonely. Fresh drinking water is badly needed in many parts of the world and there are ways we can monetarily help in alleviating these dire conditions. There are also many people right here at home who are thirsting for love and companionship. Can we quench their thirst by the gift of our time and our love?
Clothe the Naked
Are we standing up for those who are the most weak and vulnerable? Are we providing clothing and other essentials for daily living? Furthermore, are we also providing advocacy to help rectify any systemic issues that need to be addressed?
Shelter the Homeless
Are we physically sheltering the homeless? In addition to simply providing physical shelter, how do we reach out to the unloved and the unpopular people of society? Do we have a way of making everyone welcome in our hearts? Do we recognize Jesus in the poor and the homeless?
Visit the Imprisoned
Due to all the security restrictions at prisons, it isn’t easy to visit the imprisoned in modern times. However, there is a definite need for the Church community to reach out to these individuals. If we can’t physically visit the criminally imprisoned, are we visiting those locked up in their homes by fear, age, or sadness?
Visit the Sick
Are we present when people around us need our care and attention? Do we see it as a privilege to serve others in their time of need?
Bury the Dead
Do we remember with love and respect those who are separated by distance or death?
How have I loved? I don't know about you, but it is clear that I have a lot of work to do. Fervent prayer and an abundance of God's grace and mercy are desperately needed. This examination of conscience has generated a healthy dose of reality into my world.
This exercise has prompted me to ask yet another question that will have to be reflected upon at another time: “What treasure really is hidden most deep in my heart?”