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2/5/17 Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Damian

The Lord says that we are supposed to be the "salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." In fact, it's a compliment we use today when we say that someone is the "salt of the earth." Yet, we know there is nothing so inedible, so unhealthy as salt all by itself. During a famine, you can't eat it. In a drought, you don't even dare come near salt. Salt is useful only as an additive. Salt can bring out flavor and be a preservative when mixed with something else to prevent deterioration. We are the salt of the earth when we are an active part of our community, serving as a preservative.

The same is true with being the "light of the world." Light by itself can blind us. Staring at the sun or a light bulb can harm us. Light is useful when it enables us to see other things better.

So we are the light of the world. We should light up consciences, minds and hearts.

How are we salt and light? Isaiah points out some ways that we have come to call the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting those in prison, visiting the sick, burying the dead. These are the classical works of mercy. The early Church did them and the Church does them today. They are tangible ways of being salt and light. These are things that we do personally or that we support through the parish, the poor box, Catholic charities.

There are other works of mercy, other ways of being salt and light that we tend to forget. These are called the spiritual works of mercy.

We all learned the list a long time ago. We may have forgotten the list, but these spiritual works of mercy are needed because they address needs deeper than the body, they help the soul.

The first one is to correct the sinner, the correction that parents and friends give to those who are on the wrong track. Do we care enough about somebody to lead them to virtue, to be a spiritual guide or an example? Do we let our light shine to them? It's a work of mercy to try to be a moral "wakeup call" for somebody about whom we care.

The second spiritual work of mercy is to instruct the ignorant. It is surprising how much lack of knowledge there is in our world about the Church and how much prejudice.

Do we try to dispel that when we have the chance? When people speak about our Church and are misinformed, it is a work of mercy to give them the truth.

 

The third work of mercy is to counsel the doubtful. Are we willing to let our own faith, our faith experience, give strength to others whose faith is tested over and over? Sometimes when people are too emotionally involved to make a clear decision, we can see the way more clearly than they. It's a work of mercy to let them see what we see.

 

Another work of mercy is to comfort the sorrowful. People carry pains in so many ways, not only from death in a family but from illness, a job loss or from transition. Are we willing to be strength to them when they are weak?

 

Two other spiritual works of mercy are to bear wrongs patiently and to forgive all injuries. People are so quick today to lash out, to even the score, to retaliate, to strike back. Do we realize that sometimes we just have to absorb some of the pain of the world and not simply spread it around? To say "it stops here" is a work of mercy.

 

The last spiritual work of mercy is to pray for the living and the dead. We can always lift up in prayer our leaders, our friends and people to whom we don't have a chance to speak. Everyone needs prayer.

These spiritual works of mercy are also ways of being salt and light. They affect not the physical condition of others but the spirit, the soul, the mind of others.

People admire the Church when it engages in the corporal works of mercy: hospitals, jail ministries, food kitchens, various kinds of outreach. But when the Church talks about conversion, opening our lives to the truth of Christ, there the Church faces hostility. There are many physical needs people have. Many more people are desperately in need of the spiritual works of mercy.

It is not enough to say, "I'll help the parish priest, Pope or others to be salt and light." Every follower of Jesus is called to be salt and light. To do so doesn't require a generous checkbook but a generous soul.

The Lord calls us to be salt and light to our world, to light up consciences, minds and lives through the works of mercy, corporal and spiritual.

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