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Sharing the Gift of Mercy with Our Brothers and Sisters

By Jennifer Gregory Miller (bio - articles - email) | Dec 09, 2015

December 12 marks the second anniversary of my open heart surgery. Such a short sentence doesn't capture all the inconvenience, pain, emotion and healing involved before and after the surgery. For me and my family, this was a pivotal moment in our lives. I have brushed the face of death but through the mercy of God I was able to survive and recover. 

Despite the positive outcome of the surgery, there is still a daily battle with living with a genetic heart condition. There is also the emotional struggle of dealing with the memories. Perhaps a psychiatrist might call it PTSD, but there are certain events or elements (besides testing, doctor's offices and hospitals) that trigger a memory, such as winter weather, Advent and Christmas, my son's birthday, Marian feast days, especially in December, and many other triggers. 

While some of my memories are unpleasant, knowing I recovered helps me get through those moments. I also have the very comforting memories that balance the negative. So many times I saw and felt the touch of God's mercy and compassion, and those memories also bring a rush of emotions. One very special memory was that during that period of strife the providential care of Jesus and Our Lady poured over me. There were also so many people praying for me that at times I felt an almost a tangible and visible connection with the Mystical Body. But again, I know I had a positive outcome. Knowing that gets me through painful memories. 

It is during these moments that my thoughts turn to other people who also are experiencing some heartbreak or suffering. What about those that the ending is just not brushing death, but embracing death? What about those families who have lost a loved one through sickness or tragedy? Or those that are still waiting to know the outcome, battling cancer or other serious illness? Or people facing the daily struggle of chronic illness or being a caregiver for someone with special needs? Or those broken families dealing with abandonment or abuse? If this time of year is laden with memories for me, their burden of memories is much heavier and harder to carry. Indeed, I have several friends experiencing extreme sorrow and pain, with the wounds being very raw indeed.

Experiencing darkness and pain can sometimes make people forget or turn away from God. They feel alone carrying this suffering. 

The Jubilee Year of Mercy is a wonderful time to extend mercy to our brothers and sisters carrying a heavy load.They need to feel the warm embrace of the Loving Father. They need to be held on the shoulders and protected from harm by their loving Good Shepherd. They need to see the face of Mercy and feel the love and compassion of Jesus. 

Some proximate ways we can help bring them to Christ are living the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy

The Corporal Works of Mercy
  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
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
  1. Admonish the sinner
  2. Instruct the ignorant
  3. Counsel the doubtful
  4. Comfort the sorrowful
  5. Bear wrongs patiently
  6. Forgive all injuries
  7. Pray for the living and the dead

The Corporal Works are tangible acts of mercy. We can personalize these to fit our friends or family. For example, to visit the imprisoned means not only those in jail, but those in the prison of their sickness or homes or their role as caregiver. Perhaps we can offer to be a babysitter for an hour or night of refreshment.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are more interior and sometimes hidden. There might not be an easy way to comfort the sorrowful except by offering extra prayers for a person. For those who suffered a death, sending a Mass card, visiting the cemetery and praying are some ways to help. 

But these are only little ways and they are only a little instrument to bring them a step closer to the real Face of Mercy, Jesus Christ. Through these works of mercy and prayer our suffering brothers and sisters can be brought to Jesus to experience His mercy and love through the Sacrament of Penance, and be comforted by his Presence in the Eucharist. The comfort of these graces can help them realize that they are not alone in carrying their burden. His Mercy endures forever.

This Advent of the new Jubilee Holy Year is a time to find ways to share the gift of mercy to our sorrowing and suffering brothers and sisters. May they experience the mercy of our Father so that we may all be able to pray:

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His Mercy endures forever!" (Psalm 136:1)

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, home schooler, and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org's liturgical year section. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Dec. 11, 2015 11:14 PM ET USA

    Thanks for a very interesting article.