Joy and satisfaction come from actively loving everyone: God, others, and ourselves.
Galatians 1:6-12, Psalm 111:(5)1b-2,7-10c, Luke 10:25-37
It is interesting that in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus did not tell us the identity or nationality or social status of the man who needed help. We don’t know if the traveler from Samaria helped the enemy or a fellow Samaritan. It doesn’t matter. The sin of the priest and the Levite is that they didn’t care enough to even find out if this man was alive or dead, or what kind of help he needed. Trapped in their self centered world, they choose to completely ignore him. The opposite of love is not hate. It’s apathy: ignoring a need, not caring, doing nothing when there is something we can do to relieve suffering.
Apathy is not natural. We were born to love. Apathy begins when there are voids in our lives that cause a feeling of continual dissatisfaction: the empty, aching, lonely, scary voids that indicate something is missing. What’s missing is love. The people who should care about us sometimes fail to give us all the love that we need. Even those who love us most cannot give us all that we need. And there are those who totally reject their calling to care about us; they treat us with apathy. No one can love us completely the way we need their love. So, we either number ourselves and become apathetic toward others, or we decide to rely more fully on God, who is love and who is never apathetic toward us. The achy voids we feel are clues that we haven’t yet given God our full attention.
When God’s love isn’t filling us, we automatically try to fill the voids with anger, cynicism, busyness, codependent relationships, over-eating, over-shopping, anesthetizing drinks or drugs, or self-esteem boosting accolades. Aha, there really is no such thing as a void, is there! A vacuum sucks in whatever is near the hole. We fill our empty areas with things and people and activities that are not of God. This causes apathy, because it prevents the outward flow of love, and at the same time it makes us miserable, because it never sufficiently brings us love.
Jesus says that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and that every person we encounter is a neighbor. Why? Because caring for others moves us from self centeredness to “God filledness.” By giving love away, God rushes in and fills up the emptied places with his own presence. We were not designed to be selfish. Made in the image of God, we feel happiest when we unite ourselves to his love. Joy and satisfaction come from actively loving everyone: God, others, and ourselves.
Corporal Works of Mercy
1. Feed the hungry: Provide food and lobby for policies that will help needy individuals and nations solve their food problems.
2. Give drink to the thirsty: Fight against water pollution; lead the spiritually thirsty to Christ; help the needy pay water bills.
3. Clothe the naked: The naked are all those who are poor. Work to change your culture’s mentality about living above income by spending on credit; help end drug and alcohol dependency, gambling and other addictions or behavior that takes money from the poor; teach financial management; help people find jobs.
4. Shelter the homeless: Rather than blaming the victim, get involved in building or restoring houses; work in half-way houses for the mentally ill; pay security deposits on apartments; help with utility bills.
5. Visit the sick: The terminally ill would be less likely to desire euthanasia if we offer them the hope and love of Christ; the suffering need emotional support and faith in God; families under huge medical bills need help raising funds.
6. Ransom the captive: Who is held prisoner by addiction, abuse, a dysfunctional family background, the occult,
joblessness, a poor education, prejudice, poverty, hopelessness, sin, ignorance or misconceptions about God? Help them find a way out. Visit prison inmates.
7. Bury the dead: Provide comfort for the bereaving; help the widow(er) with meals or activities; stay involved long after the funeral; be sensitive to the pain of loss.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
1. Instruct the ignorant: Teach the meaning of the Gospel and the spiritual implications of it for our lives; lift people from spiritual poverty; be an example of true Christian living.
2. Counsel the doubtful: Society teaches doubt of God, skepticism, loss of confidence; live your faith in a way that witnesses to the reality of God.
3. Admonish the sinner: Our world tries to remove “sin” from our vocabulary; in whatever you do, firmly but
compassionately object to social and personal sin; take a stand against injustices.
4. Bear wrongs patiently: Jesus is our example; bear wrongs with dignity, patience, and conviction that God stands by us, as a witness that suffering can lead to spiritual growth.
5. Forgive offenses: Peace and justice don’t work if they’re only attempted through legislation. Promote inner conversion and outward forgiveness, first in your own life and then help others discover the same.
6. Comfort the afflicted: Walk with people through their pain. We give them relief by our presence, our prayers, and our loving deeds.
7. Intercede for the needs of others: Pray for loved ones, relatives, friends, neighbors, fellow church members, the
souls in Purgatory, leaders, the nation, our world, etc. This motivates us in other ways of ministering.