The «Works of Mercy» are a set of charitable actions and attitudes, through which we help the neighbor in their corporal and spiritual needs (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church – 2447).
For the most part, Works of Mercy can be considered as forms of alms (alms, along with fasting and prayer, are traditionally the three pillars that compose the ‘ righteousness ‘ or ‘ justice‘ in the way religious people must behave).
Corporal Works of Mercy:
Spiritual Works of Mercy:
Introduction and Importance
The Works of Mercy have great relevance and importance as acts of charity towards the neighbor in the Catholic religion, because they have their source in the Holy Scriptures, and because of Jesus’ warning that the Final Judgement will fall on the Works of Mercy and charity that we may have practiced (or not) with the neighbor we have encountered. He will consider these works as made (or denied) to himself (Mt 25,31-46).
Close Relationship between Faith and Works
The Holy Scriptures teach that Faith is a gift composed by two different dimensions, both required and complementary to each other. One is the belief in the words of Jesus Christ our Lord, that directs us towards the certainty of our hope; And the other consists in the works that vivify, externalize, and prove the existence of that belief. (Cf. Jas. 2:14-20; 1Jn 3:17-18; Mt. 21:28-31a; Catechism – 546).
This doctrine, is very well exposed by the apostle James, and is in perfect harmony with the Gospel, when Jesus teaches that «Not everyone who says «Lord, Lord!» will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but those who do the will of my Father, who is in Heaven» (Mt. 7:21; see also Lk. 6:46; Ti. 1:16; Rom. 2:13). Therefore, faith in God will not carry any benefit for us if it is not accompanied by the observance of the Commandments and the practice of Works of Mercy, or charity, to the neighbor. Otherwise, that faith would be worth nothing to God, it would be a dead faith. It would be like the dry tree, which gave no fruit.
The Works of Mercy are then among the highest forms of love of the neighbor. Because of their high value they contribute greatly to a nation’s wellbeing and grandeur, so they should be encouraged in educational systems and in social behaviour through the mass media.
Works of Mercy: General Guidelines
In Jesus’ critique to the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees for the way of practicing their ‘righteousness‘ or ‘justice‘, we can discover some basic guidelines regarding how to perform these charitable works for them to be pleasing to God:
Works of Mercy should be disinterested (Lk 6:35; Lk 14:13-14), without ostentation (Mt 6:1.4), appropriate to the requests and the need of the neighbor (Lk 6:30; Mt 5:42; Lk 10:25-37), related to Jesus (Mt 25:33-46), recognizing their cause and source in God, revealing His love (Jn 3:17) who «loves the one who gives with joy» (2Cor 9:7).
When performing them, one should anticipate grave basic needs (bread, water, shelter, without needing to be asked for) and lead to God, without boasting oneself for the act (there are many organizations that give to the poor, but in the context of an atheism that excludes religion, it is therefore saddening to see religious groups do the same, without driving souls towards spirituality, as a rule of thumb, the neighbor should be able to see our kindness as coming from God himself).
Donated amounts are increased in value if they are accompanied by a friendly word (Cf Sir. 18:15-18; Sir 4:8).
The Works should not be done with superficiality and hypocrisy. That’s how it came to happen in the Jewish religious context, in times of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus invites us to purify every religious practice with an evangelical spirit of discernment. And he establishes a general principle: the works of piety must not be done to gain prestige before others, positions of power or privileges.
When the works are performed with reluctance or for boasting, they are dishonorable and humiliating; First of all, the righteous meaning of mercy and justice must prevail. Jesus calls comedians, hypocrites, charlatans, those who displayed their prayers and offerings to the sound of trumpets in the corners and squares, or disfigured their face to make people see they were fasting. Jesus establishes a contrast between doing these godly acts to be seen by others and doing them in the secret so that only God may see them (Mt. 6:1-4).
Solidarity acts and their implicit risks
There are those who excuse themselves from doing solidarity acts saying that doing them could bring to them consequences or risks. It is the so-called «excessive human prudence.» To approach those who suffer from indigence to give some food, to invite strangers to host them at home, to go to a hospital to visit the sick, etc. are all actions that may carry some risk.
In this regard, we can only say that in general all the solidarity acts carry some risk (and we can not call ourselves Christians without doing them), for this reason, it is necessary to build a minimum of courage that prevents us from falling into the guilty fear, that limits our generous delivery. Otherwise we would be obstacles to the divine Providence, which placed us in front of the need, to resolve and not to hide.
It is appropriate, however, to act with some natural prudence, e.g., to avoid attending a hospital if we are not feeling well; to properly sanitize ourselves; If afraid of a stranger, approach to him accompanied by someone else; to give notice to our guardian angel in advance and wait for an instant to confirm that we are not being alerted to avoid action, etc.
Keeping some distrust to someone who is a stranger is not bad at all (in fact the Sacred Scriptures advise many times to distrust men because man must put his trust in God and not in men), just make sure it does not become an insuperable fear that may prevent you from doing good works.
«Fear of others becomes a snare, but the one who trusts in the Lord is safe.» (Prv. 29:25)
Rewards for performing Works of Mercy
If accumulating wealth on Earth, where there are brothers who suffer the lack of basic necessities like bread, water and shelter, is a sin against charity (which calls us to share our goods with our brothers), accumulating wealth in Heaven could be the smartest thing, where we will be able to take advantage of that fortune after the passage through death. Jesus Christ himself did recommend it widely, implying that these riches will be palpable to us and not something merely abstract.
«Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.» (Lk. 12:33)
«And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.» (Mt. 10:42)
We can accumulate these riches by performing Works of Mercy, which are rewarded for sure by the very words of Jesus Christ. It is necessary, though, that they comply with the basic norms of charity that we have already mentioned in the section above. There are those who point out that doing them in order to «get a prize» would be contrary to charity and therefore they should not be done for that purpose, but we understand that the mere fact of performing them already implies and manifests charity (and faith) as long as the prize is not received in the world, besides, the words of Jesus are already clear enough.
«Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.» (Lk. 6:38)
For more References on rewards for doing Works of Mercy see: Rev. 16:15; Rev. 3:17; 2Cor. 5:3; Lk 12:33; Lk. 18:22; Lk 6:38; Lk 16:9; Mt 10:42; Mt 6:19-20; Mt. 19:21; Mk. 10:21; Mt 25:29; 1Co 3:12-15; CCC N° 679; CCC N° 682.
Corporal Works of Mercy
Feed the hungry
The action consists in freely providing food to those who are hungry.
«Give us this day our daily bread» we say when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Could we be righteous if we ask God to do for us what we don’t do with our neighbor? When we meet someone in this situation we should avoid being indifferent, we do not know for how long someone was asking, or starving without anyone giving anything.
It is good to worry for the hungry as if they were a relative of ours, with a love that allows them to perceive God’s love, who takes care of them as a Father.
«Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.» (Mt. 25:184.108.40.206)
Give drink to the thirsty
The action consists in freely providing drink to those who are thirsty.
«Whoever confers benefits will be amply enriched,
and whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.» (Prv. 11:25)
Life as we know it is impossible without water. A human being needs an average of 1.5 liters of liquid water to live in basal operating conditions, temperature and other environmental variables in a temperate climate and with scarse physical exercise.
The human body has a greater tolerance to remain without consuming solid foods than liquids, therefore, for those who are thirsty, consuming a drink soon could be an urgent need to stay healthy. This need becomes more serious during hot days or when previous excersices were made such as walking and the body feels tired.
«And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Mt. 10:42)
Clothe the Naked
The action consists in freely providing cloth pieces for the body.
Clothing is one of the human being’s primary needs, and as such it has its value in the works of mercy.
The importance of having certain garments could be the difference between staying alive or dying, when weather conditions are severe.
In today’s world, in turn, we often see how the treatment of a person varies depending on the quality of the clothes he or she wears, and how all kinds of discrimination often occur for this reason. For someone who is attending a job interview it could be very useful to have appropiate clothes for the occasion, that may allow him or her to act and feel with self-confidence.
«Give to the hungry some of your food, and to the naked some of your clothing. Whatever you have left over, give away as alms; and do not let your eye begrudge the alms that you give.» (Tb. 4:16 )
Shelter the homeless
The action consists in receiving in the own house guests and giving them temporary accommodation at no cost. The beneficiary could be a pilgrim who by devotion or vote travels through strange lands to visit a sanctuary, or someone who passes through the house without having found accommodation, or someone who because of his poverty condition has no place to sleep.
«Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.» (Mt. 25:34-35)
The action of giving food and drink can be added to the action of giving shelter, enriching even more this Work of Mercy.
When performing this Work, it is good advice to avoid bothering the guest, so to make him feel that he is not a nuisance, to have a helpful attitude towards him and an internal attitude compatible with the idea that the guest was entrusted to us by the Lord for a good cause, knowing that we will be rewarded for taking care of him.
«Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly hosted angels.» (Heb. 13:2)
Visit the sick
The action consists in visiting someone who suffers a, more or less, serious alteration in their health, or illness.
Christ’s compassion for the sick and his numerous healings are read throughout each of the Gospels. While visiting them, it is good to try to brighten their mood, that will naturally be low by effect of the illness and offer our prayers for their health.
It is necessary to be attentive to the gravity of their situation, as it may be the propitious occasion to use the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (especially before a surgery or if there is danger of death).
For those at the final moments of life it is useful to know how to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, because of the benefits that Jesus promised to St. Faustyna Kowalska when it is prayed along a dying person.
It is also a good opportunity to bring some Sacramentals, such as holy water, medals, crosses, stamps, prayers, etc. ensuring that the patient does not feel abandoned by God, but the opposite, may the sick see in our visit the care of God, who as a father, takes care of his children.
Before visiting the sick it is useful to learn a bit about the meaning and purpose of suffering for the Christian, i.e., the pain as a means of purifying from our sins, the importance of ‘carrying with our own crosses’ with patience and being able to explain these things to the sick so that they may not be discouraged, and be able to offer their sorrows for their own -and humanity’s- salvation, adding their suffering to the Passion of Christ, without forgetting the fundamental truth in the faith of every Christian: Christ has arose. We also hope that, when we are found worthy on the day of judgement, our bodies also resurrect for eternal life, with no more death nor possible illness, a glorious thing by which it is justified to go through some moments (that are always brief in relation to Eternity) of pain in this earthly experience.
Emergency Baptism. When the patient has not been baptized, and his life is in danger, an emergency baptism can be made, which can be performed by anyone who accomplishes this simple requirements:
1) To have the intention of doing what the Catholic Church does (who administers it wants to baptize, and the sick wants to be baptized).
2) Pouring natural water over the sick’s head, while saying at the same time the following sentence, without omitting any word: «I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.»
Later, the happening will be communicated to the priest that corresponds to the location, so that he may perfect the act, in case the dying patient shows an improvement in his health.
«Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.» (Mt. 25:34.36)
Visit the imprisoned
The action consists in visiting someone who is subject to a penalty of deprivation of liberty, in a prison or other place of confinement.
During his preaching, John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod, and his disciples went often to visit him. He sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one expected to come or they should wait for someone else. Jesus answered to them, «Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.» (Mt. 11:2-4).
Similarly, there are many others who are now imprisoned like John was, and Jesus’ mandate is applicable the same to the present time. Then let’s bring the prisoners the good news and the works that Jesus made, which testify about his divinity, so that they may believe and by their faith convert.
In the imprisonment of St. Peter, and the subsequent miraculous liberation by action of the angel who visited him (Acts 12:4-11), we also see a symbolic image of the liberation that God produces in the hopeless ones, revealing to them the freedom of the children of God.
We should note that Jesus has also identified himself with the figure of the convict. He, being God, was unjustly accused of revolting against the authority of the Caesar of the Roman Empire, of uttering blasphemies and of healing by using the power of the devil. He was counted among the criminals and condemned to death with two wrongdoers. In the light of these events, it is necessary to meditate on the ease with wich man judges his brothers. It’s easy to fall into the appearances and convict an innocent. Only God sees in the secret and knows exactly the happenings, so it is advisable to follow Jesus’ teachings: «Do not judge for you not to be judged» (Lk. 6:37; Mt. 7:1-2; Jn. 7:24).
From Jesus’ own experience we can see that even the occasion of his crucifixion with two thieves was useful to obtain the conversion of one of them, who received the promise of Paradise for the same day (Lk. 23:39-43). In the same line, our visit to the prisoners will also be an opportunity to bring Jesus to this place of confinement and hopelessness, the comfort that God is willing to provide is as infinite and sweet as it was for the condemned to receive the promise and certainty of Paradise.
«Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body.» (Heb. 13:3)
Bury the dead
The action consists in burying a deceased person, carrying out the corresponding procedures.
«My son, shed tears for one who is dead with wailing and bitter lament;
As is only proper, prepare the body, and do not absent yourself from the burial.
Weeping bitterly, mourning fully, pay your tribute of sorrow, as deserved:
A day or two, to prevent gossip; then compose yourself after your grief.» (Sir. 38:16-17)
Mercy must also be extended to the dead, giving them pious burial, defending their good name, offering the appropiate sacrifices for their soul. Also those who mourn the loss of a loved one need those who can bring them comfort.
After the crucifixion and death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea provided his tomb to shelter the body of Jesus and bury him there. Nicodemus, also participated helping to bury him, (Jn. 19, 38-42).
Leaving a corpse without burial was considered a great disgrace (cf. Jer. 16:4; Jer. 22:19; Is. 34:3; Ez. 29:5). Therefore, it was a sacred duty and an especially good work to give the dead dignified burial. Special importance is given to this duty in Tobit.
Later, the concern arose to offer prayers and sacrifices for them (2Ma. 12:38-46).
Why is it so important to give dignified burial to the human body? Because the human body has been house to the Holy Spirit. We are «temples of the Holy Spirit» (1 Cor 6, 19). In times of war, it can be a very demanding mandate beacause of the existence of added difficulties.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
Instruct the ignorant
The action consists in instructing those who ignore or lack proper knowledge about some matter.
«You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.» (Jn. 8:32)
The teaching could be on any subject, although it is particularly relevant that which deals with religious matters and which is called catechesis. Teaching produces also, as a side effect, the perfecting of the educator, who will naturally internalize concepts to better respond to the questions and objections of his or her auditorium.
The Catechetical teaching takes as a basis the truths expressed in the prayer of the Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer, describing the roads that lead to the Kingdom of Heaven. (Cf. CCC 2033; CCC 2065; CCC 1724; CCC 1697; CCC 983)
«Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.» (Mt. 28:20)
«He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.» (Mk. 16:15)
As the book of Daniel says, «Those who teach justice to the multitude will shine like the stars to perpetual eternity» (Dn. 12:3b).
Teaching the children
The place of teaching par excellence is the home itself, where children grow up following the examples of their parents, and listening to their opinions and advice. In this regard, it is good to introduce the children to the true religion when they are young so that they may have the necessary tools to understand today’s world, not to give in to ‘the current of the world’.
The duties of parents towards their children are grave. The Holy Scriptures recommend instructing them in the days of their youth, sparing no correction. It is then, the most opportune time to root in them the virtues.
Counsel the doubtful
The action consists in giving good counsel to someone who needs guidance or who doesn’t know how to act regarding to a particular matter.
To give good counsel requires some wisdom in the one who gives it. In other words, it is advisable to avoid giving bad suggestions to those who, by following them, could make mistakes that are difficult to repair. Those who have virtuous behavior will naturally give signs of being trustworthy to issue advice.
One of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of Counsel. Therefore, whoever is up to give good advice must, firstly, be in tune with God, since it is not about giving vain opinions, but of giving good advice to those who need guidance.
To distrust ourselves, following the advice of a wise and prudent person is a repeated norm in the books of wisdom (Prv. 12:15; Prv. 3:10-16; Prv. 27:9; Sir. 32:24). The Counsel does not belong to man, but to God from whom it proceeds (Cf. Tb. 4:19).
The utmost expression of the Counsel is found in the Holy Scriptures, where we find the necessary answers to know how to act in every matter of our lives.
«Seek counsel from every wise person, and do not think lightly of any useful advice. At all times bless the Lord, your God, and ask him that all your paths may be straight and all your endeavors and plans may prosper. For no other nation possesses good counsel, but it is the Lord who gives all good things. Whomever the Lord chooses to raise is raised; and whomever the Lord chooses to cast down is cast down to the recesses of Hades. So now, son, keep in mind these my commandments, and never let them be erased from your heart. » (Tb. 4:18-19)
Admonish the Sinner
The action consists in warning, admonishing, or rebuking someone who is committing sin.
It is an act of love if it is humble and is accompanied by the examination of our own conscience to avoid boasting (cf. Jas. 5:19). Humility is the great help to make it in a spirit of fraternity (cf. Phil. 2:3).
It is good to express our critics in a constructive way, since many times, we ourselves make the mistakes that we accuse others of committing (and in some cases we even accuse others of non-existent faults). Nobody likes to be reprimanded and less in public. For this reason Jesus ‘ words enclose the way in which the corrections should be made:
«If your brother sins, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.» (Mt. 18:15-17)
We have to worry for the brothers who deviate from the truth to lead them to return to God’s project. Whoever does so, will receive new life and forgiveness of his sins:
My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (Jas 5:19-20)
«Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted.» (Gal. 6:1)
The action consists in remitting the offense, fault, misdeed or debt.
In human relationships we will always encounter someone who offends, humiliates, wounds or hurts us in some way or molests, being this a cause of anger, hatred, and after some time, of rancor. And many times it seems right to us to keep a grudge against someone, not realizing that God cannot inhabit where there is hatred and lack of peace.
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray: «Forgive our offenses, as we forgive those who offend us» and the Lord himself clarifies: «If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.» (Mt 6: 14-15).
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.» (Lk. 17:3-4)
«For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.». (Lk. 6:32.35)
«Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.» (Rom. 12:14.17)
Offenses or financial debts?
This Work of Mercy is compatible with the remission of economic or financial debts of which we are creditors, and this is demonstrated by the words of Jesus in the parable (Mt. 18:21-35). In the same way the Lord’s Prayer can contain the words «forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors» understanding both terms offenses and debts in their broad meaning and as synonymous.
«If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.» (Jn. 15:18)
Comfort the Sorrowful
The action consists in giving relief to someone’s sorrows or afflictions.
«Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.» (Is. 40:1)
Sorrows are sometimes manifest. Other times they pass unnoticed, without being completely exteriorized. We all find difficulties in our live and become discouraged when we do not get what we want. Many times man feels frustrated when he feels that God denies him something «unjustly», but the Lord sees further than what we see and certainly, in the end, something that we do not understand or that hurts us, we end later discovering it was actually convenient for some reason that we did not previously know.
It is often necessary to know how to read on the faces of our neighbors the sufferings, and to be considered, to donate a little of our time and to accompany the afflicted, to raise the fallen spirit and afterwards, to invite to continue the walk. Let the neighbor know that there is no glory without cross, that in our path it is inevitable to have to carry at times those little crosses, but that we always can have the comfort we need if we ask the Lord and his Mother, who was constituted by him as a very powerful consolation for the Christian, and she was given to us, precisely at the foot of the Cross.
«Then call on me on the day of distress; I will rescue you, and you shall honor me.» (Pss. 50:15)
Jesus always commiserated with those who suffered, and he taught us the path to follow before the closeness of his own sufferings: «Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.» (Lk. 22:42; Mt. 26:39-42; Mk. 14:36; Jn. 18:11).
The Book of Job contains a very good example of how even for a religious person who is not willing to question his faith, the sufferings provoke serious difficulties. In the midst of them, it is always useful to give them a meaning of purification and penance, which sometimes is even previously necessary to be able to enjoy some special grace that Heaven is wanting to give us.
«I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.» (Jn. 16:33).
Bear wrongs patiently
The action or attitude consists in withstanding or tolerating the neighbor’s imperfections with strength, without losing our spiritual balance.
«While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the «old man» and to put on the «new man.» (cf. Eph. 4:24). (CCC 1473)
«Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.
For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself.» (Gal. 6:2-3)
The Christian, on his path to becoming the ‘new man’ is subjected to numerous trials (Cf. Acts 20:19), among them is to endure the shortcomings of others without losing our temper, maintaining a spiritual balance and integrity not to sin against Charity. When living together with other brothers it is of particular importance to restrain ourselves from reacting to those things that we find irritating in the others, and that in one way or another we all have, because as Pope Francis said, we all give reasons for annoyance, so we must strive to bear with each other, because where there is division, unity is not possible, and the devil ends winning.
It is good to realize that before God we are nothing, and then to abandon all pride that inherently carries a idolatry, which is that of the own self, and to avoid having those unfortunate reactions by which we say hurtful words, often killing or wounding with the sword of our word.
«For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace.
But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
«He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.»
When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.» (1Pe. 2:19-23)
Pray for the living and the dead
The action consists in praying to God for the living and for the deceased.
«Give your gift to all the living, and do not withhold your kindness from the dead.» (Sir. 7:33)
Prayer is the elevation of our soul to God, asking to Him for convenient goods. Humility is the basis of prayer (Cf CCC 2559).
«It is the living relationship of the children of God with his infinitely good Father, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit» (CCC 2565). Inseparable from the Christian life (CCC 2745), it allows us to discern the will of God and obtain constancy to fulfill it (CCC 2826). It is a gift of grace, it is an effort, it is a spiritual combat against ourselves (CCC 2725). It helps us to keep alive that ‘memory of God’ that prevents us from forgetting Him (CCC 2697).
The fundamental Christian prayer is the Lord’s Prayer (CCC 2773), in which forgiveness is the summit of Christian Prayer, which forgives even the enemies (CCC 2844).
Being vigilant and watching in prayer helps us to avoid falling into temptation (CCC 2612), in turn, acedia (a form of depression) and lack of faith threaten prayer (CCC 2755).
It is God who has the initiative to call man untiringly to the mysterious encounter of prayer, Man’s walking is always a response to that initiative, in which God gradually reveals himself in a reciprocal call. (Cf. CCC 2567, CCC 2591)
How to pray
Prayers are made from the heart and in peace. If we are away from God, the expression of the prayer is futile (CCC 2562). You can pray mentally or verbally with the words that come out, but Jesus advises to pray in the secret and without making a long chatter (cf. CCC 2608). Before presenting our prayer as an offering it is advisable to be reconciled with our brothers, following Jesus’ example regarding love of enemies and prayer for our persecutors, because if you only love those who love you what credit is that to you?, even sinners do that (Cf. Lk. 6:32; Mt. 5:44) (cf. CCC 2608).
Jesus stated: «And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.» (Jn 14:13-14). Therefore the church ends its prayers justifying them by the sentence «by our Lord Jesus Christ» (Cf CCC 435, CCC 2614).
In prayer, Jesus adheres to the ‘Mystery of the Will‘ of the Father ‘Not my will be done but yours’ (Cf CCC 2603), we must recognize that God may have a different plan in relation to what we may ask. Praying with faith does not mean saying «Lord, Lord!» but to dispose our heart to do the will of the Father (Mt. 7:21). Jesus invites his disciples to bring to prayer their will to cooperate with Divine Plans (CCC 2611).
Three principal parables on prayer are transmitted to us by St. Luke:
– the first, «the importunate friend«, invites us to urgent prayer: «Knock, and it will be opened to you.» To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will «give whatever he needs», and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts.
– the second, «the importunate widow«, is centered on one of the qualities of prayer: it is necessary to pray always without ceasing and with the patience of faith. «and yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?»
– the third parable, «the Pharisee and the tax collector«, concerns the humility of the heart that prays. «God, be merciful to me a sinner!» (cf. CCC 2613)
The request for forgiveness is the first movement of the Prayer of petition (cf. the publican: «God, be merciful to me a sinner!»: Lk 18:13). It is the beginning of a pure and just prayer. Both the celebration of the Eucharist and the personal prayer begin with the request for forgiveness. (Cf CCC 2631)
References: Mk. 11:24; Mk. 14:38; 1Thes. 5:17; 1Ti. 2:8; Mt. 6:5-11; Mt. 26:41; Lk. 5:16; Lk. 11:5-13; Lk. 18:1-8; Lk. 18:9-14; Lk. 21:36; Lk. 22:40-46; Jas. 5:16; Sir. 7:33. On praying for the dead: 2Ma 12:45; Job 1:5.