What is the proper Catholic response to the Jubilee Year of Mercy? Put simply, the answer is “action,” Bishop Richard Moth of Arundel and Brighton, England told the members of his diocese last week.
“The corporal works of mercy are, simply, the outflowing of the love out of which God our Father has created us,” Bishop Moth stated in a Sept. 25 pastoral letter.
“We know from St. Matthew’s Gospel that the yardstick by which we shall be judged is that of our mercy to others,” he continued, asking the faithful to perform mercy through good works.
The corporal works of mercy are the charitable acts that respond to the basic needs of individuals. They are found in the Gospel of Matthew, and include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, visiting those in prison and burying the dead.
“These works are called ‘corporal’ because they are concerned with the physical well-being of our brothers and sisters,” Bishop Moth noted, underscoring the active aspect of their nature.
“We cannot simply wish others well and then leave them to manage for themselves.”
The bishop placed a particular emphasis on these deeds, especially during the Year of Mercy, saying that the corporal works of mercy “will be used as the measure for our lives.” He also warned against being like the rich man in the Gospel who “does nothing. He looks only at himself,” while Lazarus begs for food.
He went on to give examples of living out the works of mercy within the diocese, saying that volunteer work at local food banks, prisons, and giving time to those in need – such as refugees – are all considered corporal works. He also highlighted the need to “tune in to the needs of those around us.”
An understanding of mercy will also nourish the driving motivation behind these charitable deeds, the English bishop noted, saying “to love God and love our neighbour is the key to our understanding of mercy.”
“We are enabled to be merciful to our brothers and sisters because we recognise them as people created by a loving God; because we recognise the dignity of the other. When we are prompted by the loving relationship that we have with God, we cannot but be merciful to others.”
Although financial giving is one way to offer charitable works, Bishop Richard encouraged the faithful to act beyond “the easy option” of writing a check. He asked his diocese to dig deeper, and examine their consciences to find the specific way that God is asking them to perform the corporal works.
“We must abandon any hardness of heart and reach out to all. To fail in this area of our lives is not an option, for Jesus calls us to this and we cannot but respond to the one who died for us,” Bishop Moth said.
“May this Jubilee Year continue to be a time of great blessing for us all and a time when we respond with renewed energies to the call to service that is at the heart of the Christian life.”