When introducing the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy, in her book Blessed Are You, Melanie Rigney writes “both types can come free and easy, … or hard and challenging”. Sort of like the healthy benefits of exercise – I can stroll around the park with the kids or I can strap on the boxing gloves and go a round with the punching bag.
As I read about Blessed Mother Teresa, St Maria Karlowska, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and others, in this chapter about mercy, it brought one important question to mind. How do I approach that responsibility in my own life to show mercy to others – and not just the “even though you hurt me (again) and this is all your fault, and you are being a toad -- I will still forgive you” kind. The words into action kind of mercy. The works of mercy encourages us beyond ourselves, like Blessed Mother Teresa beyond ourselves. Though we may not all be called to the streets of India, we are responsible to care for the poorest of the poor – spiritually and physically.
Take for instance, praying for the living (*and the dead – but we are going to focus on the living for this reflection). There is an easy way to accomplish this – I can include prayer intentions for others in my daily prayers. One of my favorite ways to include praying for others – that definitely falls into the 'free and easy' category is to post on Facebook when I am going to Eucharistic Adoration. In my post I include an image of my parish's chapel along with a simple, “Can I pray for you?”. It humbles and amazes me the response this garners; typically I receive a 100 or more likes and/or comments. Sitting in the chapel before Jesus in the Eucharist, praying for each by name – there is a sense of peace and hope; though the requests often break my heart – this is still very much an easy act of mercy.
Late last year, after completing a novena to St. Ann for help with a serious financial matter; I felt this spiritual nudge to give back for our blessings by asking in prayer for an idea on how else I may serve the church. In my heart came this inspiration to rejoin the ministry of bringing Communion to the home-bound. My pastor was happy to have my help but it would require me to attend the 8 am Mass; and to make the tough decision to run an encore in place of my usually live radio show once a week. Ooh, wow – didn't see that coming! Hard and challenging. It wouldn't stop being so even after I made those sacrifices to participate in this work of mercy.
First, you have to know I am extremely germophobic – a Lino Rulli/Howie Mandel level germophobe! Just weeks into this new ministry, I arrived at my assigned assisted-living location with a LARGE NOTE taped to the door, “ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK – STOMACH BUG EPIDEMIC”. WHAT?! The situation was made more difficult because in my hand, wasn't regular communion but Christmas communion. HOW could I not bring them 'Christmas Jesus'; yet with just days until I hosted our family Christmas Eve celebration – it felt selfish to walk in and selfish to walk away. As my Spiritual Director always says, 'If you are going to trust God; then you need to Trust God!” Sometimes being Christ in the world, or bringing Christ to the world … or to just three new remarkable 90 year old friends … is hard and challenging.
As in my exercise analogy, both activities are beneficial, however the workout that is harder definitely takes more determination and effort from me; and let's be honest, will produce the greater benefit. Finally, in case you were wondering – I did go into the building that morning; and I did not get sick. The joy on the face of the first woman when I entered her room, the smell of Lysol wafting heavily in the air; quickly told me I had made the right choice. The next resident I visited, wisely shared, “Jesus will bless you for your kindness”. Whether I caught the bug or not; I believed he already had
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2016
An edited (aka one with the proper word count --oops) version first appeared