Monday, February 23, 2009

On Saturday I wrote a post sort of about what Lent means to me. In this post, I descibe giving something up, like donuts. But the season of Lent is about much more than giving up sweets in self denial. It is supposed to be about self denial for the sake of Christ. It is about seeing Christ in others, and offering them mercy. The Catholic Church offers a list of ways to show mercy. the corporal works of mercy is as follows:
Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Shelter the Homeless
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
Bury the dead

The spiritual works of mercy are:
Instruct the ignorant
Counsel the doubtful
Admonish the sinner
Bear wrongs patiently
Forgive offenses willingly
Comfort the sorrowful
Pray for the living and the dead

Now, ideally, we are supposed to be practicing this mercy every day of the year. Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I find myself drifting into other cares. Lent sort of wakes me up and brings me back....Ideally I am not going to stop doing these things during the Easter Season and Ordinary Time because Lent is over. Ideally, I am to have made self denial and mercy a way of life that keeps on going until next Lent, when I can then find ways to be more merciful still. Yeah, I keep saying ideally. That is because often enough I foul up somehow before we are even half way into Lent. I try to remind myself that just because my sacrifice could never be perfect, it doesn't mean it is useless. That is where the God and angel conversation come in again (see Saturday's post).

Now, here is a question. What if I were to do any of the corporal works of mercy with a sneer on my face? Would that be merciful? That question arises from a situation that my friend Katdish referenced on her blog Hey Look A Chicken.. The gist of the story is that some experimenters in viral advertising are using a homeless person, claiming they have a win win situation. Some of us find the way this is being handled as degrading to the man in question. I tried to assume the best about the perpetrators of the campaign in the beginning, but the more I think about it, the harder it is. Doesn't treating someone mercifully require being aware of their dignity? I started out thinking I shouldn't judge this campaign, since I am not doing enough. I moved on to thinking that just because I should do more, that doesn't excuse using someone the way the campaigners have used Tim.
Katdish's post caused lots of thoughts to start running through my mind, too many to include in one post. For now, I want to end this post with the thought that this Lent I need to incorporate remembering the dignity of the person as I attempt to grow in mercy. That sentence itself may sound confusing, but I trust you know what I mean.
There will be more on this to come, as I sort it out.
God bless Katdish and the people at her Church. They have been working on this already....


katdish said...


I can't tell you how much reading those works of mercy helped me this morning. The further I delve into this, the more conflicted I become. I received another email this morning from one of the principals of this firm, which only left me more conflicted. Then there is the matter of the OTHER guys under that overpass that have more immediate, pressing needs. The ones that are not in the spotlight, but have very real problems with no easy solutions. Please pray for all of those involved. We could certainly use some divine intervention!

Helen said...

I will pray for them. I will pray that lots of people find a way to show them mercy with dignity and that perhaps they can eventually find a way off the street.

sherri said...

I love these lists! They are very helpful.

Thanks for sharing them.

Helen said...

I think the lists help, too. I don't know about anyone else, but sometimes I think the spiritual works of mercy are more difficult to do than the corporal works of mercy.