When’s the last time you ransomed the captive or counseled the doubtful? No, they’re not high on my to-do list either. But I was recently challenged by the fact that they are high on Jesus’ to-do list for us and for the Church.
I had to make a lengthy drive recently and decided to pass the time by listening to the audio version of The Work of Mercy: Being the Hands and Heart of Christ by Mark Shea. I thought to myself that Lent is coming up and maybe this would motivate me to get outside myself and serve others.
Not only was I motivated—I was encouraged, convicted, prodded, and cut to the heart. Shea looks at the fourteen corporal and spiritual works of mercy and how they might come in to play in modern times. In today’s economic climate, the ideas of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and clothing the naked have taken on a more urgent prominence. This was easy to understand. But bearing wrongs patiently and forgiving offenses willingly? I can understand the spiritual value, but was surprised at how much my own will and my “rights” took precedence over the humble attitude of Christ.
I was thoroughly enjoying Shea’s comments on those who have a different political persuasion than me. “Let them have it” I inwardly urged. But my internal cheering suddenly grew quiet when he wholeheartedly began to point out the shortcomings of those on my side of the political fence. How dare he?
I finally had to admit that left/right is not the issue. Being conformed to the mind and spirit of Christ is the issue and we all live in a society that rails against humility and exalts self-will.
One recurring theme is that these works of mercy are God’s ideas, like them or not. We can accept or reject them but we can’t make them go away. He also makes the point that these works are entrusted to the whole Church. Not every person will take part in every one of these works—but every person needs to take part in some portion of this total picture. The helpful resource section gave me plenty of ideas as to how I might take part.
Shea is a master wordsmith and brings these important works to life. More than that, he uses his voice as an instrument, which made the audio a pleasure to hear. If you want a positive focus for Lent, this book is for you. If you need a reminder to embrace the full call of the Gospel, this book is for you. I for one am grateful not only for the inspiration, but for the conviction.
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