“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25: 35-36)
Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of taking some paternity leave from work as our family transitions from a family of four, to a family of five. During that time, we have been blessed with great friends and family who have helped us by cleaning our house, preparing meals, and giving us some respite from the children for a few hours so that my wife and I could catch up on a little sleep. I have been overwhelmed with gratitude and joy for the blessing of friends and family in our lives. Time seems to be at a premium right now and every offering of others has been such a tremendous help to us. Yet, I also feel inadequate. Others have done so much for us, how am I being charitable to others?
In the Catholic tradition, certain charitable acts are also referred to as acts of mercy. The tradition outlines a list of corporal works of mercy, or acts of service that serve the physical needs of others, and spiritual works of mercy which serve the spiritual needs of mercy. (For a full list google it!) At first glance, they may seem like a long list of things to do. Our faith can often seem like a list of rules and tasks to complete, but upon deeper reflection we see the true beauty of our faith. We believe in a God that says that we don’t have to love him separately from everything else, but instead love him by loving his creation. Moreover, we do not have to go somewhere to find Him because He is in us and with us. Jesus says “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
It was in the process of reflection that I was reminded of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. While I was trying to fit everything nice and neat into my messy life, God was telling me to find Him in it! As I reflected on the daily tasks which I was completing I noticed a remarkable thing: my life is full of spiritual and corporal works of mercy! My day starts when my kids wake up which leads to a process of me getting them dressed, and changing a few diapers. Clothing the naked, check. Then I head downstairs and prepare breakfast for my wife and two daughters. Feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, check and check. Then the baby cries because he is hungry so I pick him up and comfort him. Comforting the afflicted, check. As I was going through the list, I was amazed. Parents complete a majority of these works of mercy every single day. Whether it is counseling the doubtful, or instructing the ignorant, the list goes on. Parents are mercy machines!
Families, do you know what you are? You are a school of mercy and love! The family is the church of the home; a channel of God’s love. It is in the family where we learn to love, where we learn to be in service to others, and where we learn to deny our own desires and pleasures for the betterment of others. Now, we all know that there is no such thing as perfection, and some families do this far better than others. Yet, we should not underestimate how important our daily lives are! We are offered opportunities at every moment to love God better, and serve Him more deeply. This opportunity is first and foremost present to us in our family. While some are called to travel around the world and serve in third-world countries, or serve as missionaries, or start big non-for-profit agencies, not all of us are called to this radical lifestyle. Instead, we are to be radical right here, right now, in this moment. We are to see our lives as opportunities to encounter the extraordinary power of God’s love no matter how mundane they may seem. I should note here, that I am not saying we are done serving others because we do it in our families, but instead I am offering us a chance to see how important what we do in our family is. So families, I encourage all of you to continue to be who God created you to be and embrace your daily chores as acts of mercy; as moments where you are truly loving God with your life.