Doing Works of Mercy Everyday

My family and I were running just on time for the early Mass last Sunday. Well, actually, we were on track to be about 2 minutes late. We were going along, stuck behind some slow-going cars. Just as we were coming to an intersection ,we witnessed an SUV drift into the bike lane and hit a bicyclist from behind. He went flying forward and landed sprawled on the ground, legs tangled in his bike. The driver of the SUV stopped her car, and jumped out to see if he was okay. My husband pulled over, parked the car, and ran out dialing 911. I sat in the car in a bit of a shock as I explained to the children that we needed to pray for the man. I prayed out loud with the kids until the emotion of it all reduced me to sobbing and internal prayer.

Within seconds, people noticed the emergency situation and came over to lend a hand. One man led the group around the bicyclist in praying the Hail Mary. A nurse came over and did basic first aid for him while they waited for the ambulance. Another lady attempted to calm the woman who had hit the cyclist. A man brought a blanket out of his house to cover the injured man. An Episcopalian minister, on his way to church, stopped at the scene to see what he could do.

All around us, early on a Sunday morning, people were coming to help this injured man, and I could not help but feel that we were apart of a community of good people. The ambulance came and took the still-conscious bicyclist to the hospital, and only then did the crowd disperse. I went over to the police to give my account of the accident, and then we continued on to church to hang out until the next Mass and to pray for the cyclist. We never found out the extent of his injuries, but we are still praying daily for his recovery.

As I reflect on the incident, I see how we and all the people who stopped immediately acted out the works of mercy for this man and for the woman who struck him. I can think of at least seven of the fourteen that were exercised by all of those involved in that one incident. I give a complete list of both the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy.

The Corporeal Works of Mercy:

  • to feed the hungry
  • to give drink to the thirsty
  • to clothe the naked
  • to shelter the homeless
  • to visit the sick
  • to visit the imprisoned
  • to bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy:

  • to instruct the ignorant
  • to counsel the doubtful
  • to admonish sinners
  • to bear wrongs patiently
  • to forgive offenses willingly
  • to comfort the afflicted
  • to pray for the living and the dead

In extreme situations it is easy to see how we are to exercise the works of mercy, but the reality is that we are called to exercise them in small ways as well. (Two years ago Andrew Sciba wrote about a very sweet event that took place between his then two year old and then crawling baby, where the two year old was giving of his own food to the hungry baby. He realized that his son was doing one of the works of mercy.)

If I think about my own children, I see them doing the works of mercy for each other daily. When my one year old visits a sister who is being punished, she is visiting the imprisoned. When my eldest helps me put socks and shoes on the baby, she is clothing the naked. They help each other with food and drink. They are each others’ comfort when we are confined at home due to illness. They are only vaguely aware of what the works of mercy are, but they are already learning to show mercy. And they do so according to their own capacity.

Conversation in Black by Stefano Corso.Conversation in Black by Stefano Corso.

We are all called to do the works of mercy according to our state in life. And while it may seem like we need great moments to do works of mercy, in reality we are called to do them everyday. We show mercy in the daily dressing, feeding, and care of children. We show mercy as teachers. We show mercy as doctors and nurses. We show mercy when we are kind to the customer having a rough day. We show mercy when we take time to listen to the problems of our coworkers. We show mercy when we share some our lunch with the man holding the cardboard sign on the street. We show mercy when we make sacrifices so that we can afford our home and food. We show mercy by giving of our money to a family in need. We show mercy when we give of our excess and unneeded clothes to a society that gives to the poor. We are called to show mercy everyday.
And when we do these things, we do them for Christ.

Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’
And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25: 37-40

Originally posted at Truth and Charity…