SPIRITUAL WORKS OF
The greatest of all commandments is
the double commandment of love. If you look up to the cross you can contemplate
a graphic depiction of this double dimension of love in the two bars of wood
that cross; there is the horizontal bar that extends outward and then there is
the vertical bar that extends upward to the sky. First and of greatest
importance is the symbolic interpretation of the vertical bar that points to
the sky, where we picture God’s presence. Our first pledge of love must be
towards God. We should strive to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and
strength. (Lk. 10:27) This is by far the first and greatest of all
commandments. Contemplating the horizontal bar that extends outward symbolizes
the second part of the double commandment of love: our love for our brothers
and sisters who were created in the image and likeness of God and were created
for eternal life with the loving God in heaven forever.
To cultivate an authentic love for
our neighbor, we must first strive with all of the energy in every fiber of our
being to love God totally, fully, and unreservedly! True love for neighbor must
flow from an authentic love for God!
Consequently, if we truly do love God
as the center, source and essence of our existence, then it necessarily follows
that we should love with all our heart what God loves most. In all the created
world of beings, by far, God loves the human person, man and woman far above
any other created beings.
Therefore, the thrust of this short
essay will be to present the seven spiritual works of mercy and offer some
concrete and practical ways that we can implement in our lives these spiritual
gems and thereby show our love for God by trying to draw souls closer to Him
and eternal salvation.
LIST OF THE SEVEN SPIRITUAL WORKS OF
To admonish the sinner.
To instruct the ignorant.
To counsel the doubtful.
To comfort the sorrowful.
To bear wrongs patiently.
To pray for the living and the dead.
PRAYER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT. I invite all of my readers to pray briefly to
Our Lady, the Mystical Spouse of the Holy Spirit and then to the Holy Spirit,
the Sweet Guest of our souls, for interior light to perceive which of these
spiritual works of mercy God would like you to put into practice in your daily
walk. Remember that we are called to live out mercy in word, prayer and action.
Jesus commands us: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”(Lk. 6:36) Also: “Whatsoever you do to the least of your
brothers and sisters we do to Jesus Himself.”(Mt. 25:45) Now we will take each of these seven
spiritual works of mercy and give some hints, suggestions, and some lights on
how we can live out these spiritual gems and prepare for ourselves and our
loved ones an eternal resting place in heaven.
TO ADMONISH THE SINNER. We are all sinners, but God’s mercy is
beyond our human comprehension. St. Paul reminds us: “Where sin abounds the
grace of God abounds all the more.”(Romans 5:20) Saint Faustina also reminds us
in the Diary that the greatest sinners can become the greatest saints depending
on one quality: TRUST! JESUS I TRUST IN
YOU! The great Saint Augustine who lived
a life of slavery to his own lusts into his early thirties asserted: “God allows evil so that He can bring even
greater good from the evil.” The best
example is the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve that we call Original
Sin. (Gen. 3) This was a moral tsunami that has repercussions until the end of
time and all the way into eternity. However, due to this Original Sin, God the
Father sent us our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the world to show us how to
live, love and die and opened for us the gates of heaven for all eternity! One concrete suggestion on how we can
admonish the sinner: try to bring a sinner back to the Sacrament of Confession
so that he can experience the infinite mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
However, before admonishing him to enter the confessional, you go first. Your
example will be a powerful stimulus!
Tell him where, how, when the priest is available and provide him with a
good booklet to examine his conscience!
If done well, this sinner will experience the loving embrace of the
Father that we read in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. (Lk. 15: 11-31 )
TO INSTRUCT THE IGNORANT. IN the Easter vigil Mass, the Church is in
darkness; the fire is lighted and then the Paschal candle is lighted. From the
Paschal candle’s light all the smaller candles receive their light. This symbol
is powerful. Its meaning? Jesus is the LIGHT OF THE WORLD. However, we are
called to be a light to the world also by being enlightened by Jesus so as to
enlighten others. Jesus also said to us: “You are the light of the world.”(Mt.
5:14) In the Dogmatic Constitution of the Documents of the Second Vatican
Council, Gaudiem Et Spes (meaning:
joy and hope) the Church insists that the first teachers of the children must
be the parents. It is the primary responsibility of the parents to instruct
their children in the ways of the faith and to be solid living bridges by which
their children can cross from here to eternity.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterates the same message, in its
explanation of the 4th Commandment: “Honor your father and mother.”( ref. Catechism of the Catholic
Church #’s 2225-2226) Three short and concrete suggestions for parents so as to
implement their duty as the first educators of their children in the way of
faith, as solid bridges to heaven:
CATHOLIC DVD’S—once a week can be
movie night in which all of the family members will be viewing a good and solid
movie so as to work on the permanent formation of their children whom they are
responsible for taking to heaven. After the movie discuss with the children
what they learned! Then encourage the children to share the Good News with
others. Ignatius press has published many great films over the past 15-20
GOOD BOOKS—Parents buy good books for
your children and encourage them to do spiritual reading so as to form their
intellect by solid reading. Indeed, good books can be our best friends!
FAMILY RETREAT—This may take
pre-planning, but verify where and when you might be able to take your family
members on some form of retreat, seminar, congress—a weekend experience so as
to fortify the family as the domestic church in a longer extended time! If the
family can go on vacation for two solid weeks, then a weekend retreat can be
done! Priorities! Let us always put God first! Jesus told the
Apostles to come apart and rest a while. May we find our rest in the Lord!(Mk.
COUNSEL THE DOUBTFUL. In the history
of humanity never has there been so much knowledge as well as easy access to
that knowledge via the Internet. At the same time, we have never lived in a
time in history with so much moral, spiritual, and over-all confusion!
Suggestion in this area: follow in the footsteps of SAINT JOHN BOSCO. A group of individuals that are neglected all
too often today are the teenagers, especially the teenage boys. For your part,
do all you can to counsel, give advice, enlighten and listen to the young
people. Transgenderism, the Gay Agenda, Euthanasia, Embryonic experimentation,
operations changing one’s sexuality—are just to mention a few of the atmosphere
of moral confusion that young people are exposed to! Why don’t you step up to the plate and help
many young people to dissipate this cloud of confusion that is smogging and
blurring their spiritual vision? Offer to teach Confirmation or at least be a
helper. Volunteer at youth retreats. And first and foremost, if you have your
own teenagers listen to them and give them advice always pointing to Jesus who
is the WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. (Jn. 14:16) Many young people fall into a
moral quagmire of sin because nobody gives them proper advice!
COMFORT THE SORROWFUL. One of the
Beatitudes is: “Blessed are those who
mourn they will be comforted.”(Mt. 5:4) Saint Monica for many years wept
bitter tears for the conversion of her son who eventually was converted—the
great Saint Augustine. (Read the
Confessions of St. Augustine) What then might be ways that we can comfort
the sorrowful, aware of the fact that we are doing this for Jesus the Lord? We
will offer three concrete suggestions for your reflection:
GRIEVING MINISTRY. Some parishes have what is called a Grieving ministry. In short, this
basically consists of being present, supporting, consoling and praying for and
with those who are grieving over the loss of one of their loved ones. Join this
group or ask your Pastor to start one in your Parish.
CONSOLE THE BROKEN-HEARTED. If a sad, depressed, disheartened, possibly
despairing person comes to you, stop to listen attentively to that person and
encourage him by words of kindness. Once again, this is done to Jesus the Lord.
One of the most evident signs that we are truly Sons of the light and
followers of the Lord Jesus is the simple manifestation of the smile. Sadness
is contagious; but also joy is contagious and it starts with a smile—the joy of
the Holy Spirit!
TO BEAR WRONGS PATIENTLY. This is very difficult! However, in social
settings this is very necessary! In our family circumstances we might have a
family member that simply drives us up the wall by certain mannerisms, idiosyncrasies
or eccentricities—in all of this: be patient!
Offer the discomfort and suffering for the souls in Purgatory, the
conversion of sinners as well as for your own conversion and salvation, as well
as all of your family members. What can
be of incalculable value in all of this is to contemplate Jesus’ patience on the
cross and call to mind your own faults and how patient God has been with you
and your own past wanderings!!!
TO FORGIVE INJURIES. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in no
uncertain terms has constantly commanded us to practice mercy by forgiving those
who have hurt us. It might be of great utility to call to mind some verses:
· “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”(Lk. 6:36)
· “Forgive us our trespasses us we forgive those who trespass against us.”(Mt.
· Jesus from the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they
are doing.”(Lk 23:34)
· Jesus to thief in forgiveness: “Amen I say to you: today you will be with
me in Paradise.”(Lk. 23:43)
· “Reconcile with your brother first and then come back to offer your gift
at the altar.”(Mt. 5:23)
· “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”(Mt 5:43-48)
These are just a few Biblical
passages that command us to practice mercy by forgiving. On forgiving those who
hurt us three short suggestions to help us in this very challenging and difficult
Divine command: 1) when offended, forgive immediately; the Bible says: “Never
let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26). 2) Pray immediately for the
person that hurt you—right away! 3) Finally, if the wound is exceedingly deep then offer a novena (9 days
in a row) in which you pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for him, showing your
forgiveness towards him by living out DIVINE MERCY—through the Chaplet! Jesus,
through Saint Faustina, encourages us to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as
frequently as we can.
TO PRAY FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.
Of greatest importance in living out the Gospel of charity, the Gospel of love,
is to be concerned for the salvation of others. Therefore, praying for others,
their conversion, perseverance in grace, and their eternal salvation is one of
the greatest acts of charity that you can offer! Any prayer said with humility,
purity of intention and purity of heart for the purpose of pleasing God is
good! However, there is a prayer which is by far the best and the most efficacious
for both the living and the dead: THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS! You can do
one of two things or both of them! Offer Mass for the living and the dead. If
this is not always possible, then offer your Holy Communion for them. However,
as a birthday gift, anniversary gift, baptismal anniversary to have the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass offered is by far the greatest gift to give to anyone
below the heavens. Indeed one Mass is worth more than the whole created
universe because it is the offering of Jesus the Spotless Victim, the Lamb of
God, the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father, through the power of the Holy
Spirit for the salvation of all souls—past, present and future. The Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass is Jesus loving and embracing all of humanity in time and
eternity by the shedding of His most Precious Blood. How great is the love of
God for us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!
In conclusion, read prayerfully the
spiritual works of mercy, which are indeed spiritual gems, as well as this
humble article, and then pray to Our Lady and the Holy Spirit for the grace to
put into practice these spiritual works so pleasing to God. You are preparing for yourselves an abundant
harvest of immortal souls for the Kingdom of Heaven!