The Catholic Church has always preserved the teaching of Christ that both faith and works are important in living out our faith. We prove our faith by imitating Jesus’ good works and His command to serve one another—and by living out our values in real, practical ways.
When He told the story of separating the sheep from the goats on the day of judgement, He said to the sheep, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). The goats were those who did not perform these works of mercy.
Thankfully, the Catholic Church provides us with a summary of the works of mercy to help us serve the least of Christ’s brethren. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines these works of mercy as “charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.”
We have the spiritual works of mercy (works that help a person’s soul) and also the corporal works of mercy (works that provide for someone’s physical needs).
The seven corporal works of mercy are:
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Shelter the homeless
- Visit the sick
- Visit prisoners
- Bury the dead
- Clothe the naked
We can do corporal works of mercy in both small and large ways. Sometimes our daily lives get so busy that we can’t spend the day volunteering at a homeless shelter, or we can’t afford large donations to alleviate many people in poverty.
That’s when we find small ways to administer the corporal works of mercy. We can stop by a hospital or nursing home to say hello to a lonely patient or buy a meal for a homeless person on the street. Even giving just five dollars to a local charity counts!
St. Thérèse of Lisieux championed the importance of finding small, daily ways to serve Jesus. She once said, “Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.”
We can reflect on how to show God’s love to others every day through Fr. Jean C. J. D’Elbee’s book I Believe In Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux. Get your own copy here.