My dear brothers and sisters, children of God and heirs of salvation; you are a people whom Christ bought and paid for at a high price; he bought us all from slavery that sin brought upon us and paid with nothing short of his own very blood. My dear precious ones of God, I welcome you to this Holy Pilgrimage and give thanks to God for your presence that is always welcome and so much a joy; how pleasant it is when brothers and sisters come together as we have today. I commend you all for the efforts and sacrifices you have made in order to come on pilgrimage, a journey of faith that attracts blessings, to our Cathedral for the activities of this day. May the Lord continue to sustain you in his mercy throughout this entire Jubilee Year of Mercy; through Christ our Lord. Amen!
Today, dear friends, I would like us to reflect on the theme: Works of Mercy since our goal this year is to be “Merciful as the Father”, I want to begin by saying we can understand the full measure of the mercy of God if we see it in the light of the fact that His justice, love, power wisdom and goodness are manifested in the splendour of His mercy. All the attributes of God are brought together and manifested in a splendid way when we experience Him as our merciful Father; when he looks upon us in mercy. God as the just one, God who is love, the all-powerful and almighty God makes Himself known when we experience his mercy. That is why even the tragedy of our sinful nature could not and cannot overpower the shinning radiance of God’s mercy on us. We all are living testimonies to the fact that despite the poverty of our human nature God never stops loving us more as he continues to rain on us the shower of his grace and of his mercy. May his name be praise both now and forever more. Amen.
It is important, on a day like this, to remind ourselves that the splendour of God’s mercy has been shining forth from eternity, but the revelation of that mercy and our understanding of it has been gradual and over time. In the old dispensation of the old covenant, as recorded in Lev. 16:2 and 1Chr. 28:11, God commanded the Israelites to build a “Mercy Seat” (or “Atonement cover” as it is called) in the Holy of Holies, over the Ark of the Covenant. (Cf. Leviticus 16:2, 1 Chronicles 28:11). This was to remind the Children of Israel of the visible presence of God’s throne of mercy amongst them. There in the Holy of Holies, the seat was not accessible to anyone else apart from the High Priest, and even the High Priest could approach it only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. On that day he would sprinkle the blood of a sacrifice for the sins of the people.
In the Old Covenant, the “mercy seat” was inaccessible and it was empty. In the New Covenant, the seat is occupied at last, and by Jesus, the High Priest who is able to sympathize with those who are weak (Cf. Heb. 4:15). This high priest has granted us unlimited grace and access to this throne of mercy. And now that we have unlimited, unmerited access to the throne of God’s mercy, we in turn ought to become “seats of mercy” to the poor, the weak and the ignorant in our society.
Brother and sisters, I place before you today the example of Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. She used to say that there are two kinds of “Real Presence” of our Lord in this world: firstly His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, where He fills us with His light, His life, and His love; Secondly, His real presence in the poor, both in those materially poor and those spiritually poor. In them the Lord is waiting for us to give Him back His light, His life, and His love. Mother Theresa is only echoing the words of Christ in Matthew 25:40 that “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” In those words Christ, charges us to be attentive to the material, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs of others.
THE CORPORAL WORKS OF MERCY
The Catholic Church has traditionally encouraged us to understand the practice of merciful love in her teaching of the works of mercy. The Works of Mercy are actions we can perform as expressions of God’s compassion and mercy to those in need. There are two kinds: the first is the Corporal Works of Mercy while the second id
Spiritual Works of Mercy. Today we reflect in particular on the Corporal Works of Mercy which refers to the kind acts that we carry out by which we help our neighbours to meet with their material and physical needs. These are seven in number:
- 1. Feed the Hungry
- 2. Give Drink to the Thirsty
- 3. Clothe the Naked
- 4. Shelter the Homeless
- 5. Visit the Sick
- 6. Visit the Imprisoned
- 7. Bury the Dead
Christ tells us in Matthew 25:34ff that the above are basic requirements for entering into eternal life with the father; “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”
There are both personal and a wider social dimension towards practicing the works of mercy. If you cannot personally reach out to them then you can support the different charity groups.
Here are some practical ways of practising the Works of Mercy:
To Feed the Hungry, you may begin by avoiding food wastage, by sharing your meals, making a few sandwiches to hand out as you walk through areas where you might find the hungry, support and volunteer for agencies that feed the hungry. We have the Sisters of Mother Theresa of Calcutta among us who feed the hungry all the year round. You may consider supporting them and similar Agencies
To Shelter the Homeless, you may begin by helping neighbors care for their homes and do repairs; support and/or volunteer for charitable agencies who care for the homeless, advocate for public policies and legislation that provide housing for low-income people; you may as well consider becoming a foster parent, adopting children who are homeless.
To Clothe the Naked you can begin by going through your drawers, wardrobes and closets and find clothes and shoes that are still in good condition to donate to Agencies that provide assistance for those in need. Let us remember the rule of thumb which says that the items of clothing which you have used in one year do not belong to you. They belong to the poor. So give it to them rather than keep them with you. We ask you support the support the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, for example.
To Visit the Sick you should imbibe the spirit of hospital visitation, spend quality time with those who are sick or homebound and do not leave this to Legion of Mary members forexample. Do take the time to call, send a card or a text message to someone who is sick. And we can go on and on.
Amongst us today are the poor, needy, sick, ignorant and all who need assistance, let them feel the impact of God’s love and mercy through you in this Year of Mercy. May the Lord bless you as you journey through the Year of Mercy and grant you all the graces of this pilgrimage.
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