Feed the Hungry

Feed the Hungry

On December 8th, the Church began the Year of Mercy.  In the Pope’s letter to the Church, Misericordiae Vultus, he reminds us to “rediscover [the] corporal works of mercy”.  So that we may “reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.”  Today we continue the weekly series on Mercy by looking at the corporal work of mercy: feeding the hungry

“What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

In the United States we are sometimes lulled into the belief that everyone is able to go to bed with a full stomach.  However, the USDA reports that about 13.8% of the population in Florida experiences food insecurity, meaning that they do not know where their next meal is coming from.  It is important for us to remember always that some do not have their full human dignity due to not being able to eat.

We are beings of both flesh and spirit.  To truly have our dignity we must be complete both body and spirit.  To lack in one of those two is not to be fullness of what God intended for us. Each of the corporal works of mercy attempt to correct a deficiency in a person’s body.  Through the works a person is able to be made whole physically.  In feeding the hungry a person is able to receive the nutrition that is necessary to live in the world.  The importance of being able to eat is shown in the Lord’s Prayer where we ask God to “, give us this day our daily bread.”  In God’s Mercy when the people of Israel wandered the desert for 40 years, he gave them “bread of heaven,” as a sign of his mercy.  To be without bread, without food, is to have something lacking in our lives.  We are not truly whole without it.

feeding-of-the-5000-by-julius-schnorr-von-carolsfeld1Those of us that eat of the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, should take the graces that we receive from it to be channels of God’s mercy.  We should remind ourselves as we eat our meals that we are blessed to have a meal to fill our stomachs and pray for those that do not their daily bread.”  What is even more shocking is that 30-40% of the food supply in the United States is wasted, more than 20lbs of food per person in the US is thrown away.  Pope Francis reminds us that “waste of food is theft of the poor.” As we gather together for our family meals we can attempt to ensure none of our food is wasted.

In addition to prayer we should perform works.  Here in Lakeland we are fortunate enough to be able to volunteer at Talbot House.  There we can cook for the hungry and help serve the food.  Allow us to see the face of the hungry and to get to know the stories of those that go without food.  In addition, we can continue to bring our food to the Parish Food Pantry that feeds many families every week.  We can also make monetary donations to Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities so that they may feed the poor not only locally but worldwide. Finally, we as Catholics can band together to encourage our governments to prevent widespread hunger in the world in the first place. In this way we can ensure that our prayers for less hunger in this world are not dead because of our works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy

The Corporal Works of Mercy

On December 8th, the Church will begin the Year of Mercy.  In the Pope’s letter to the Church, Misericordiae Vultus, he reminds us that Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy and through Jesus Christ Mercy is living and visible in Jesus.  Today we continue the weekly series on Mercy by looking at the corporal works of mercy.

“Find us ready, Lord, not standing still.  Find us working and loving and doing your will.  Find us ready, Lord, faithful in love, building the kingdom that’s here and above, building the kingdom of mercy and love.” – Find Us Ready, Tom Booth, OCP Publications

This past Sunday Marisa and I changed things up a little bit.  We went to the six o’clock mass rather than our normal 10 am Mass.  That is where we heard the song above, Find Us Ready, and it fits so nicely with this week theme.  Previously we discussed how we can receive mercy, how we can get spiritually be feed through the sacraments and scripture to understand and receive mercy.  Now, it is important for us to take that mercy we have learned about and share it with others.

During this time of Advent we are preparing for the coming of the Lord, both his first coming represented by Christmas and his second coming.  Tom Booth’s song reminds us what we are called to do, we need to build the kingdom of mercy and love.  Jesus tells us how we can do that very thing.

ravenna_santapollinare_nuovo_cristo_divide_le_pecore_dai_capretti_inizio_del_vi_secolo
Christ separating the Goat from the Sheep in a Mosaic at Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Italy.

In his parable of The Sheep and the Goats, found in Matthew 25:31-46, we are introduced to the corporal works of mercy.  In the parable we find out that we are called to 1) feed the hungry, 2) give drink to the thirsty, 3) clothe the naked, 4) shelter the homeless, 5) visit those in prison, 6) comfort the sick, and 7) bury the dead (this one is found in the Book of Tobit). The importance of these corporal works is indescribable.

The best I can do in describing the importance of these works is to share my personal experience with the works. The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world.  It is through the Church that many are able to be fed, clothed, sheltered, and given medical care.  There are countless numbers of people throughout the world that are shown mercy and the love of Christ through the actions of Catholics.  In a world torn by original sin, manifested in war, terrorism, and malice the corporal works of mercy brings a light of hope, love, and mercy to the world.

The corporal works of mercy have greatly affected me personally. Not to go into too much detail in this article I can tell you that through the works I have grown to see my fellow man in a more merciful way.  In seeing the hardships of this world and walking with those people experiencing those hardships I have grown in mercy in my day to day life.  In addition I have grown spiritually, in that I understand the blessings God has provided me and mercy he has shown me.

 

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Bl. Mother Teresa

During this Year of Mercy I suggest that you find ways that you can incorporate the Works of Mercy in your daily lives.  Gather your family or your ministry together and discuss how you as a family/group can work to build the kingdom of mercy, through the corporal works of mercy. I would also suggest taking some time to learn about Blessed Mother Theresa. She is a great example of someone that worked to build the kingdom. In the coming weeks I will discuss each work of mercy on its own and in more detail.  Next week we will discuss Feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty.

 

The featured image is of Frans II Francken: The Seven Works of Mercy.

The Psalms and Mercy

The Psalms and Mercy

On December 8th, the Church will begin the Year of Mercy.  In the Pope’s letter to the Church, Misericordiae Vultus, he reminds us that Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy and through Jesus Christ Mercy is living and visible in Jesus.  Today we continue the weekly series on Mercy by looking at the Book of Psalms as not only a School of Prayer but a School of Mercy.

 “In a special way the Psalms bring to the fore the grandeur of his merciful action”– Pope Francis in Misericordiae Vulutus, §6

Many Catholics only experience with liturgical prayer is the Holy Mass, however throughout the world at multiple hours of the days another liturgical prayer occurs, The Liturgy of the Hours.  This Tradition is gained from our Jewish roots.  The Jewish people would gather at the temple, or if not able to make it to the temple face towards the temple, to offer praise to God using the Book of Psalms throughout the day.  Jesus, being a good Jew, also prayed the Psalms throughout the day.  Throughout the Gospels you can see Jesus referencing the Psalms as he prayed and as he instructed.  Through his, and the other Jews, daily prayer of the Psalms they had become items that were easily referenced and used in daily discussions.

The Liturgy of the Hours, like the Mass, is shared by the entire Catholic Church and ensures that the Church answers St Paul’s command to pray without ceasing. The Prayer has a rhythm of repetition to it (if all the hours are prayed then all 150 psalms will be prayed in 4 weeks) which allows us to see the Psalms in a different light throughout the year.  When we are depressed we may resonate with the Psalmist who is looking for happiness in the Lord.  On the other hand when we are joyful we may also be reminded of those less fortunate then us. By using the same words that Jesus prayed with also learn how to pray in our own words.  Forcing us to not only remember ourselves but to remember others, to slow down and mediate on God’s words, but more importantly see that we can pray to God not only on Sundays, but throughout our everyday lives.

The Liturgy of the Hours, based off of the Book of Psalms, can also assist us in understanding our Merciful God.  While many times we get hung up on the concept of Mercy, sticking to a “head” knowledge of it, the Psalms allows us to understand Mercy with our hearts. Just as each of us can describe what falling in love is like to someone it does not compare to how a musician talks about love in their music.  In the music it becomes universal and we are able to apply to our personal lives easier. In the same way the Psalmist takes the hard to explain concept of our Lord’s mercy and makes it personal and evokes our memories of the mercy of God.  As Archbishop Rino Fisichella tells us, “The Psalms are able to reflect everyone’s life … their lives are reflected in these ancient poems that have become an inheritance of prayer for generations of people.”

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Psalm 25

 

In the following year of Mercy, the United States Bishops suggest that we meditate on ten specific Psalms;
Psalm 25, 41, 42, 43, 51, 57, 92, 103, 119:81-88, and finally 136.  Slowly reading and praying over each of these Psalms assist us in seeing more clearly the Mercy of God and how he has provided mercy to each of us.  Take time once a week and focus on one Psalm to pray over.  Allow the words to guide you in prayer and become a stepping stone with your discussion with God.  If you are having difficulties it may benefit you to pick up a copy of The Psalms of Mercy, which was released by the US Pastoral Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.  The Psalms of Mercy provides commentary on each of the Psalms so that if you are stuck on a Psalm or need more clarity it can assist you.  We must always remember that through the Psalms, “God speaks a language that can be understood by everyone, and he speaks to everyone as a friend. (Fr Sebastiano Pinto, The Psalms of Mercy)”