The readings this week are rich in warmth and comfort. In the first reading, a wealthy woman offers hospitality to Elisha who is “going about God’s business” in Shunem. In the old testament, it is said that it was known to be dangerous to travel and do God’s work, prophets had to depend on the goodness of the local community for food and lodging. Elisha goes to Shunem often and this wealthy woman prepares a place for him to stay whenever he comes to visit. This reading brings to mind that we need to prepare the way for the Lord to come to us, welcoming God into our lives and remain open to God so that we may realize our potential to do God’s will. In the gospel, we also are told that “whoever receives you, receives me as well as the one who sent me”. Again, openness to welcoming God into our hearts and lives. We need to be aware of the opened embrace God offers us in our lives. That’s a nice comforting thought/feeling, right? Remember when I said I believe our Catholic faith is a gift from God? I truly believe that we need to accept that faith in order to achieve what God expects of us. I believe he expects us to all follow in the footstep of his apostles and the saints who have come before us. In other words, he gives us the opportunity to become saints ourselves. Isn’t that what we believe? This gift of faith allows us to welcome God into our hearts. A gift must be accepted in order to be realized. How do we use this gift to become better Catholics? The gift to me is enclosed in layers of tissue paper in a wrapped box, like gifts we receive for our special occasions like birthdays. The layers of tissue paper are unwrapped and within each layer is a step toward our potential goals of becoming closer to God. With the final layer being our reward in heaven. The gifts are there for us to open and embrace.
Bear with me for a moment to tell you what I am thinking. We have received these gifts when we were born, in Baptism, which is the first layer of tissue, then Penance, followed by Holy Eucharist, Confirmation and Matrimony or Holy Orders and finally the sacrament of the sick. Each layer or sacrament gives us a different gift. With Baptism, we are freed from original sin! That’s a big one.
I don’t need to tell you all the gifts we receive from all of the sacraments, but I would like to look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit we received at Confirmation as fortifying us with the means to achieve our potential: Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and awe in the Lord. By accepting and welcoming these gifts from the Holy Spirit, we profess our firm belief in our purpose here on earth. These gifts, I believe are manifest through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The corporal works of mercy are oriented to the body and the spiritual works are oriented to the soul. The corporal works are those we actually see in our everyday lives, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned and burying the dead. These works are what we as Catholic Christian do as members of our faith community. Those of you who live out this faith are role models for us in all that you do for those in need. You are not afraid to proclaim your faith and our faith by your actions. You exhibit courage, fortitude, understanding, piety and wisdom to do what is right. You are models for us on how to live a Catholic Christian life in this day and age.
The spiritual works of mercy include: instruct the ignorant (all called to share and teach our faith that was passed on to us), bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offenses willingly, comforting the afflicted and praying for the living and the dead. There are other spiritual works pertaining only to the clergy which include counseling the doubtful and admonishing the sinner, but these listed above belong to all of us in the laity and are within each one of us to activate and share. We need to be open to God’s work, to ask God to show us the way to do what is needed to be done to gain entrance into eternal life. By paying attention to the words of the gospels and the readings that are proclaimed every day, we can find a path to realizing our potential. These spiritual works of mercy are most important in what is going on now all around us. Comfort the afflicted jumps out at me. How do we accomplish that currently? I am asking you all, how do we accomplish that currently?
“Forgive offenses willingly” is one of the spiritual works. Is that too much to ask currently? How is that done?
We need only to look at the lives of the saints to see all of these works of mercy in their lives. They are there for us to emulate. St Mother Teresa of Calcutta comes to mind. She loved unconditionally the poorest of the poor without expecting anything in return. In her book, Praying with the Saint of Calcutta, she says “Jesus is my All in All”. She felt a burning in her heart to do as Jesus asked her to do and as a result, she founded her religious community, The Society of the Missionaries of Charity. She noted that God told her to “Come be my Light”… and so she did. When asked: what place do you give Jesus in your life?… she responded without hesitation, “I give Him all.” She composed a prayer that tells us who Jesus is: “He is the naked to be clothed, the sick to be healed, the homeless to be taken in, the unwanted to be wanted, the leper to wash his wounds, the beggar to give him a smile, the drunkard to listen to him, the blind to lead him, the dumb to speak for him, the crippled to walk with him, the drug addict to befriend him, the prostitute to remove from danger and befriend, the prisoner to be visited and the old to be served”. She told us that holiness is not a luxury for a few, but a simple duty for you and for me. This sanctity is intimate love for and union with Jesus. The more tenderly you love, the more holy you become.
We need only to look at the lives of the saints to have a blueprint to follow so that we can become saints ourselves. Or we can be inspired to make our own blueprint.
As a result of us following Jesus and being ever present to His works, we are given the beatitudes to live by. If we do as He says, we will receive our reward in heaven. That’s enough for me to know.