In today’s article, we will explain what the Christian Corporal Works of Mercy are , specifying and explaining what each of them consists of and where they come from. We will also mention what the spiritual works of mercy are and we will teach you different ways to perform them.
What are the Works of Mercy?
The works of mercy are actions that we can perform to help others. It is a way of putting our faith into action, since these gestures are the basis and fundamental weapon that must accompany the life of every Christian. On the other hand, it is the best way we have to show Christ our faith and that we follow the path that he indicated to us to reach salvation and eternal glory. These actions we carry out are divided into two groups according to the size of the people they are intended to help. That is to say: we can find works aimed at helping bodily needs and others that seek to relieve spiritual needs.
Already in the biblical texts we find many references to the works of mercy, but perhaps one of the most representative is the narration made by Saint Matthew about the final judgment (25;31-16) where he exposes each of the works of corporal mercy. . This passage from the bible says the following:
« When the son of man arrives surrounded by his glory and accompanied by all his angels, he will sit on his throne of glory. Then all nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, he will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then he will tell the king to those on the right:
– Come, blessed of my father; take possession of the kingdom that has been prepared for you since the world was created; for I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to see me.
Those who are just will then reply:
– Lord, when did we see you hungry and gave you food, thirsty and gave you drink? When did we see you as a stranger and host you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or imprisoned and we went to see you?
Then the king will say:
– I assure you, when they did it with the most insignificant of my brothers, they also did it with me.
Now he turns to those on the left and comments:
– Away from me, damned; go to the eternal fire that is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you did not give me food, I was thirsty and you did not give me drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I fell ill and was imprisoned and you did not visit me.
Those on the left respond:
– Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or imprisoned and did not help you?
To which the King will reply:
– I assure you, when they didn’t do it with one they considered insignificant, they didn’t do it with me either.
In this way, these will go to eternal punishment (those on the left) and the righteous will go to eternal life (those on the right) « .
This biblical passage could not be clearer, helping others is not only helping that person in need, since in every action we do we will be offering our help to God. This means that we must work in every action, no matter how small, with the same intensity and passion that we would have if it were Jesus who asked us for help. In the same way, this fragment of the Bible specifies what the Christian works of mercy are.
What are the Corporal Works of Mercy ?
In the previous section we already had a quick idea of what they are, but below we mention the 7 corporal works of mercy explained in detail:
Feed the Hungry :
As the name indicates, it consists of alleviating the hunger of the hungry. Today there are many who go through hardships to get a plate of food for themselves and their families. Especially in Latin American countries where we find quite disadvantaged sectors of the population. Saint Luke writes in his gospel that Jesus indicates that he who possesses two tunics that he take advantage of to distribute them to whom he does not possess, in the same way; Whoever has to eat should do the same.
It is important to note that Jesus does not say in his word that you stop eating to feed others, rather it is to collaborate and help with what you have left over and you are able to donate to others. Many people believe that by not being able to share what little they have, they are failing as Christians. But at the same time, there are people who have the resources, although their thoughts are governed by hatred, envy and greed, giving others the minimum necessary help, believing that this is enough. As the saying goes: “not so bald or with two wigs.”
What really matters when you want to feed your neighbor is that you do it from the heart, with love and selflessness. Just as Jesus would for us. As for those who do not have much food, they should not forget that Jesus is the ultimate provider and he will be there with you whenever you need him.
Give drink to the thirsty
There is not much to add on this point since the previous one encompasses it quite well and applies equally.
Give Refuge to the Pilgrim
In ancient times, giving shelter to a stranger could result in something of life or death for that person, since if he did not find accommodation he could die due to the complexity and complexity of travel and crossings. Over the years this has changed a lot and it could be said that it is not the case today. Even so; At some point we could find ourselves in that situation in which a known or unknown person needs our help for accommodation. Not because of friendly hospitality or because it is family, but because he really has an emergency that prevents him from reaching his house or the place he has as his destination.
Dress the Naked
Today having or not having clothes goes beyond a simple basic need. In principle, clothing seeks to protect us from the weather and the environment, give us warmth and shelter, as well as give us that feeling of security. In ancient times there were not the same facilities that we have today to get clothes. Since there was no mass production and clothes had to be made by hand piece by piece. Which, sometimes, could take a long time. This resulted in not everyone having the right attire or many wearing clothes for too long to the point of being threadbare and worn.
In fact, having a lot of clothes was considered a symbol of status and power due to the aforementioned. For this reason, God invites those who have excess clothing to donate it to those who need it most. Nowadays clothes not only mean status, but also a way to show who we are, to show through our appearance how we are individually. But the clothing used in this way is only an accessory, a complement that no matter how hard you try to describe yourself, it only works as a mask that hides who you really are inside. At the end of the day, it is our actions that matter.
In the bible, through the letter of Santiago Jesus Christ invites us to be generous at this point where it says that: what is the use of giving people food and drink if they are naked, even if we quench their thirst and hunger, they will still suffer because he does not have clothing to protect him.
With this we do not ask you either to give all your clothes as a donation, at the end and again; What matters is that the gesture you make is done with love for Jesus and for your neighbor. You can choose clothes that you no longer use because you stop liking them, because they have a lot of time, etc. And give it as a donation to someone you know needs it or simply at the church collection.
Visit the Sick
This point not only involves visiting a sick person, it also includes taking care of them and attending to them in their physical, affective and mental condition. In the sacred scripture it is explained to us in the parable of the good Samaritan: whoever did not provide the necessary care to the wounded and to get out of trouble and be able to continue with his life, he entrusted the care of the sick person to a third party offering a little money.
The disease has always been a sign of rejection by all of us who are healthy or who do not suffer from that disease. In addition, there are diseases that are more likely to reject those who suffer from them. In his time it happened with those who suffered from the plague and today it happens with those who suffer from AIDS, to name a few among many. Of course, we are not going to deny that the rejection of that person occurs mainly as a protection mechanism to avoid infecting you. It is logical not to want to get close to someone suffering from the plague due to its high level of contagion. Reason why we do not urge you to risk your life to help a sick person.
But there are many ways to support someone with an illness, even more so in this digital age where we are just a click or a keystroke away. Namely; There are many ways in which we can help others. As we mentioned at the beginning, help can be provided:
- Physically : helping them with tasks that they cannot perform, feeding them, making it easier for them to go to the bathroom and get dressed, helping them to walk, etc. Many patients suffering from diseases have limitations to lead a normal life. Although this is not exclusive to patients. Many elderly people also require this type of care, although their condition is not explicitly a disease, but a normal degeneration of the body due to the effect of time, they also need help to live with quality the time they have left in this world. .
- Emotionally : a dimension of the human being that is greatly affected when suffering from an illness is the state of mind. It is even very common that most patients require more care in this area than in the physical aspect. It is very easy to become depressed in the face of an illness, especially when it is serious or terminal. Helping people emotionally can be a sigh of relief in the face of what can be the end of one road and the beginning of another. You don’t need to be a psychology expert, a quality comedian, or a parent. The most important thing is to approach that person with love and real interest. Show that you are there for him and so be it with a light conversation, a hug or perhaps simply your company. You lighten the enormous load that person is carrying on his shoulders.
- Mentally : it can be easily confused with the feelings of the previous point, but here we refer to helping the person to maintain their cognitive qualities. For example, an elderly person suffering from Alzheimer’s requires not only physical and emotional care, but also cognitive care to help reduce his degenerative condition of the mind.
- Spiritually : spiritual accompaniment can never be lacking, especially for those people who have lived their lives without letting Jesus enter their hearts or who have openly allowed him throughout their lives. These are the most needy people because who asks for help is not only their body, but also their soul.
Based on the above, one piece of advice that we can give you when helping the patient is that you worry about finding out what is the disease that afflicts him and what is the condition that he has beyond the disease. This way you can provide more personalized help. If you can’t get this information, then just be there for him, whether it’s talking, playing, laughing, praying, or just sitting next to him for several minutes or hours keeping him company.
Visit the Imprisoned
Something similar to the previous point occurs here, since we can find that those who are incarcerated have problems on a physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual level. Although the main support that those deprived of liberty usually seek is spiritual. This particular population is well aware for the most part that their actions have led them to be behind bars, but more importantly, to distance themselves from the path of god.
For this reason they are usually open to receiving help to improve as people, straighten their lives on the right path, obtain redemption for the sins committed and the possibility of salvation from God the Father.
Helping the imprisoned also means rescuing the innocent and kidnapped. In ancient times, Christians used to pay to free slaves or freely offered themselves in exchange to free an innocent prisoner. Many people falling behind bars are denigrated and rejected by their friends and family, leaving them alone and at the mercy of darkness. So that by giving them help you not only improve their quality of life, but you become a beacon of hope that brings them closer to the Lord’s salvation.
Bury the Dead
When Christ died on the cross and they proceeded to bury him, he did not have a place where he could rest. José de Arimeta was the one who gave him his tomb and had the courage to go to Pilate and request the body of the Lord Jesus accompanied by Nicodemus, who gave them his help to bury him. This is a fragment of the Bible that we can find in John (19;38-42).
At first glance, burying the dead may seem superfluous, since in theory everyone is buried. But this does not happen in all cases, for example: in times of war this can be extremely complicated because of what it implies. But what is the reason why it is so important to bury the bodies after their death? The reason is simple, the body must be buried since it has been a container of the holy spirit. This is what the Bible says in Corinthians (1;6-19): «We are temples of the Holy Spirit».
That said: what happens today with all the people who are cremated, what happens to their ashes?
Cremating people is sacrilege, since the body that has served as a container for the holy spirit is disrespected. In addition, the situation is aggravated when people spread the ashes anywhere without hesitation or zeal of what they are doing, since a proper burial is not being carried out. Even so, this does not mean that people cannot be cremated, but the norms established by the church on how to proceed must be followed:
- To begin with, a body can be cremated if this does not question the faith in the resurrection of said body.
- They must perform the funeral rites on the remains of the cremated person.
- The body may be cremated when there are valid reasons that prevent the funeral celebrations from being carried out in the presence of the body of the deceased.
- Cremated remains must be treated with the same respect and treatment that would be given to the body of the deceased.
- As with a coffin, the urn where the remains will be deposited must be worthy of the use that will be given to it.
- Cremated remains should be properly buried in a grave, mausoleum, or columbarium.
Through the Order of Christian Funerals, in appendix 2, it is indicated that scattering ashes in the air, land or sea does not represent a respectful way to treat members of the church. The same goes for the practice of keeping the remains in the home of the deceased.
Although the corporal works of mercy are focused on caring for and helping people’s bodies, it does not mean that the spiritual aspect should be left aside (as we explicitly mention in some of them). In fact, bodily works are usually a way or a means to help the spirit of others.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
As with the seven corporal works of mercy, we have seven spiritual corporal works. These are:
Educate the one who doesn’t know
It involves educating and teaching anyone who does not know religious issues and the word of God. In addition to this, it also includes educating people on any topic that is useful. These teachings can be given through biblical texts, through the word or using any means of communication.
Advise those who need it
It is important to clarify that the advice must be offered, it cannot be forced. Although the ideal situation is when they ask us for advice. For those who hope to give good advice, they must know that they have to be in tune with God. Only then will you be able to give good advice, advice that with some luck will represent the word of God speaking through you. For this to happen, you cannot comment from personal opinions. Namely; You have to try to be empathetic.
Correct someone who makes a mistake
Here we must be careful with what we consider a mistake and how we approach it to tell you that you made said mistake. In principle, you refer to all the mistakes that the person commits that incurs in sin. For this reason, a better way to understand what he means would be to reformulate the work of mercy to “correct sin.”
To do it properly, Jesus teaches us that the right path is through fraternal correction. In Matthew (19;15-17) he comments that if your brother has sinned, you should go with him and take him to a secluded place to reproach him. If after the conversation he listens to you, you will have beaten your brother, otherwise; the ideal is to talk to him again in the company of two or three other people who allow him to serve as support and as witnesses. In the event that his response is negative and he refuses to listen, you will have to notify the assembly or, in any case, the superiors.
In order to execute this work of mercy adequately, two things must be taken into account:
- Expect a positive response to our correction.
- Avoid causing perjury to ourselves.
When correcting others, we must be careful and have great consideration, since a drastic and aggressive approach can cause a response contrary to what we want to achieve. On the other hand, we cannot be on the lookout at all times to correct everyone around us. We must know how to mediate when it is the right moment in which we have the greatest probability of being heard.
Forgive the insults
Already in the Our Father we repeat it over and over again: “Forgive us our offenses as we forgive those who offend us”. In any case, in the writings of Saint Matthew (6;14-16) the Lord tells us a little more about it: «it is very clear that if you forgive the offenses of men, the heavenly father will also forgive you. On the other hand, if you do not forgive men’s offenses, neither will your father forgive you.”
Learning to forgive is one of the most difficult tasks we have to do. Since a simple “it’s okay, I forgive you” is not enough. It requires a higher level of commitment, it implies being able to eliminate all the hatred and resentment that there may be about it. Of course, it also involves letting go of feelings of revenge. Once we are able to do this, we can kindly maintain a relationship with those who have offended us. The fact that an injury is forgiven does not mean that we are obliged to renew a friendship, but we will be able to have a kind treatment with that other person.
comfort someone who is sad
Comforting someone who is sad works similarly to caring for someone who is sick. Through our approach we seek to improve the state of mind of that other person and thus improve their quality of life. Caring for the elderly falls into this category, either because they need a conversation or because they want to be heard. Many elderly people often have feelings of loneliness because their families pay little attention to them. So they look for someone they can talk to about anything.
Suffer patiently the shortcomings of others
To be able to patiently suffer the shortcomings of others, we must be tolerant. Attribute with which few are born and most must build as they grow. The most difficult thing to understand when it comes to other people’s defects is that in many cases we will not be able to change them. We have to accept that it is not up to us for that other person to change and learn to overcome her defect.
Despite what has already been mentioned, there is a piece of vitally important advice that you should abide by: if enduring a defect causes more harm than good, then it is best to stop being tolerant and approach that other person in a respectful and loving way and give you a warning.
Pray to God asking for the living and the dead
Jesus advises us to pray only for ourselves, not for our families and friends. He but for all people, pray for everyone without any distinction, including our enemies, the rulers and all the deceased. Especially for the deceased since they, who are in purgatory, only have our prayers.
Unlike the corporal works of mercy, the spiritual works of mercy are found in different passages and texts throughout the Bible, through teachings that Jesus himself gives us on aspects such as forgiveness, consolation, enduring suffering. , etc.
Additional Aspects of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy
- The first thing we should remember when talking about the works of mercy are the commandments, especially the first that is directly related to them: “Love God above all things and your neighbor as yourself.” It is impossible to do a good deed towards others if we do not love ourselves or God. Although it must be clarified that first it is necessary to love God. It is impossible to love ourselves or to love others if we do not first love God. Since love of neighbor is the fruit of love of God.
- Following the same line of thought as in the previous point: our love for our neighbor is a reflection of our love for God. Helping others without loving God transforms our actions into altruistic and philanthropic behaviors. That is not bad, but it is something that anyone can do without having to be a Christian. What distinguishes us as Christians is our ability to love through God. Which grants the grace of God to us and to those who offer our help.
- Performing actions only as a philanthropic activity does not generate merit in our personal lives
- For those who wish to search directly in the Bible what are the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, they should go to the section of the Gospel of Saint Matthew that speaks of the final judgment.
- If you don’t know, the term mercy is a compound word that comes from “Miser” which means misery and “Cordia” which means heart. Therefore, the word mercy can be defined etymologically as feeling for the other the miseries, sufferings and needs of him; generating as a result of what we feel compassion; that actively motivates us to take action to help you.
Prayer to Divine Mercy of Pope John Paul II
If at any time you wish to make a prayer for the works of mercy, regardless of whether they are corporal or spiritual. We recommend you use this one elaborated by Saint John-Paul II:
« Merciful God the Father, who revealed your love in your son Jesus Christ and poured it out on us in the Holy Spirit; today we entrust to you the destiny of the world and of all men. Bend over us sinners and heal our weakness; help us to defeat all evil and make all the inhabitants of the earth experience your mercy, so that in you, triune god, they always find the source of hope.
O eternal father! for the painful passion and resurrection of your son, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen « .