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Old Ideas for Lent

Posted by on Mar 4, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Many of us get stuck in a rut for our Lenten disciplines. We do the same things every year. We give up pop, chocolate, tv or some other comfort. Instead of the same old thing, what about a NEW old thing? In the Gospel of Ash Wednesday, St. Matthew 6:1-21, Jesus gives us three things for Lent: prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. The spiritual masters of the Church have encapsulated the commands of our Lord in an easy to follow way.

The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are 14 classical ways to imitate Jesus Christ. They are easy to memorize and easy to do. Except for the courage and self-sacrifice they require- but that’s the point.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are:

  1. To feed the hungryCorporal_Works_of_Mercy
  2. To give drink to the thirsty
  3. To clothe the naked
  4. To house the homeless
  5. To visit the sick
  6. To ransom the captive
  7. To bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are:

  1. To instruct the ignorant
  2. To counsel the doubtful
  3. To admonish sinners
  4. To bear wrongs patiently
  5. To forgive others willingly
  6. To comfort the afflicted
  7. To pray for the living and the dead

A work of mercy is a work of love that imitates Jesus own love for us. Whether it is “corporal,” meaning having to do with bodily life, or “spiritual,” having to do with our spiritual life, these works of love not only help others but they increase our own capacity to love. The works of mercy also open our own hearts to better receive the grace of God by making us co-operators in His mission.

The works of mercy also supply an opportunity for an increase of merit. Merit is the Catholic doctrine (CCC 2006-2016) that emphasizes that God allows us to co-operate with His saving work- much as a father or mother allows their children to help with the work of the home. It is the power of the parent which supplies the action but child is allowed to work beside them. The work of the Christian soul is small and totally dependent upon the Grace of God yet it has the real effect of increasing the soul’s capacity to receive love and to return love.

This Lent, don’t just give up the same old thing. Memorize the works of mercy and then commit to performing one spiritual and one corporal work each day. Your mind and heart will be formed after the mind and heart of Jesus. You will live out the mercy of God and fulfill your baptismal promises.

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