Jubilee Year of Mercy

Corporal works of mercy: caring for God’s temple

By Celeste Zepponi
I’m so excited about this Year of Mercy! I am confidently seeking God’s mercy and joyfully expecting to receive mercy big time during this year dedicated by Pope Francis as the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. While I am planning to enjoy mercy abundantly, the Holy Spirit keeps reminding me that I am also called to give mercy abundantly.
Our Mother Church offers us a great starting point by defining the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. This post, Part 1, takes a close look at the Corporal Works of Mercy; Part 2 will examine the Spiritual Works of Mercy.
Reading through the list of Corporal Works of Mercy, I got a little restless. Self-accusations flooded my thoughts and all I could think was, “I am not doing this at all. I haven’t even thought about doing that.” I felt my actions barely approached any of these Corporal Works of Mercy. But, as I thoughtfully projected each suggested act of mercy into my daily life, comfort began filtering back in. I realized I can actually be very merciful by doing “small things with great love!”
To fully embrace this Year of Mercy, the need to recognize mercy is paramount! Recognizing that we have many opportunities to perform acts of mercy can help us develop a perspective and attitude of merciful gift giving that flows freely into the lives of others. Corporal, defined as an adjective, means affecting or characteristic of the body as opposed to the mind or spirit. So let’s take a closer look into the habits, responsibilities, and circumstances of our daily lives to see where our personal experiences serve the characteristics of human body.
The Corporal Works of Mercy
1. Feed the hungry. We are called to satisfy the hunger of those around us. Everyone needs and enjoys food. Gatherings that include food build families and communities. A simple meal at the end of a long day, helping the elderly or sick obtain food, donating time and/or money to soup kitchens or missions, washing dishes, serving; these are all acts of mercy.
2. Give drink to the thirsty. Thirst is a vital physical need. A person can only live a few days without water. Seeing that people and communities have clean water to drink and maintain good health is an act of mercy. Simple daily acts of kindness such as filling water glasses for the dinner table, bringing cold water to workers in the heat, or bottled water to children at the ball field or playground, running water for baths. All these acts of love nourish, refresh, sooth and comfort the body.
3. Clothe the naked. Sharing clothing with the poor and homeless, providing aid, support and warmth for those affected by natural disaster, war, or poverty. Volunteering, organizing, assisting charitable organizations and churches. Washing clothes and linens for your  family, especially children, the sick and elderly. Working to provide the needs of your own family is an act of love and mercy.
4. Visit the imprisoned. Whether circumstances bring you into actual prison ministry, or into the awareness of a child imprisoned by bullying or impoverished circumstances, the desired action of mercy is to bring Jesus Christ to every human person. Every person is made in the image of God and is worthy of absolute dignity as a child of God. Every person is worthy of love, forgiveness, healing and hope.
5. Shelter the homeless. Working with groups that provide shelter, showers, meals and a safe place to sleep is an act of mercy. Offering time and/or financial support to help others learn to provide for their own needs through education and training is a great act of mercy.
6. Visit the sick. Driving someone to the doctor or the grocery store, visiting people in hospitals or nursing homes, making phone calls to check on the elderly and sick. Taking care of children or running errands for a friend who has had surgery or a new baby. Bringing meals to those who are not able to cook for themselves.
7. Bury the dead. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. To bury the body is an act of mercy, honoring a person’s life and body created by God. Attending a funeral also reminds us of our own mortality, the gift of our own lives, and the promises that await us in Heaven.
(Celeste Zepponi is a member of Clarksdale St. Elizabeth Parish and a blogger for catholicmom.com. This is reprinted with permission.)