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Mercy builds God’s kingdom

 

An old BBC children’s radio show opened with these lines, “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.”

Are you sitting comfortably?

Really?

That thing poking you isn’t a sand bur, or a pebble.

It’s your conscience. And you shouldn’t be sitting -- comfortably or not. Get up and do!

That’s what you all but shouted at me, Abba.

We sit comfortably in our land of peace, with wars raging far away and famine only images on our TV screens. As your followers, we should be anything but comfortable.

In Matthew’s gospel, you commissioned your apostles to go out into the countryside -- to go out and do the work of building your kingdom.

“As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick” (Matt. 10:7-10).

We are not to sit idly, watching the world go by, seeing the needs and doing nothing.

You gave us your Spirit; you command us to love one another, and to go out and be your love to others.

Sitting comfortably isn’t building your kingdom. Sitting comfortably doesn’t feed the hungry, comfort those who mourn, clothe the naked, heal the sick, offer hope to the lost.

Our efforts to build your kingdom lie not only in believing and acting in faith, but to do the work that brings the kingdom to others. One way is in service to others, through what the church terms the “works of mercy” -- corporal being things of the body, or physical being, and spiritual being those of the soul.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, these are: “... charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently.” Corporal works of mercy include feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Giving to the poor is considered “... one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity... ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447).

It may seem futile, at times. You told us, Jesus, that the poor will always be with us. It may seem daunting; the numbers of those in need are great.

“Never worry about numbers,” said Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. “Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

We may feel we have little to offer; perhaps we have very little ourselves. It may be tiring, and we may feel overwhelmed. Ours is not to take care of all the needs, but the ones in front of us, the ones we cannot deny. And we are not to give up or lose hope.

“Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

Are you sitting comfortably?

I’m not. And I may never be again. Past time to listen to that conscience of mine -- prickly thing that it is -- and get building and doing.

 
 
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