by Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. | March 24, 2012 12:01 am
The Second Vatican Council taught us that the Eucharist is the “Source and Summit” of the Christian life. Yet we must keep in mind that the same council makes clear that the Eucharist is not the sum total of the Christian life.
Indeed the Eucharist, and all the sacraments, are memorials of a dramatic act of mercy that occurred not in the serene majesty of the temple liturgy, but in history, amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Let’s pause for a moment to recall the reason for this Ultimate Work of Mercy. The first members of the human race had renounced their freedom and dignity as sons and daughters of God and had fallen into bondage to a tyrannical master. Suffering and death were the fruit of this slavery. The price to redeem themselves from this miserable situation was beyond their means. So in bondage they stayed, forging heavier chains for themselves with every passing generation.
Until, that is, the God of Justice manifested Himself as the Father of Mercy. Justice renders to each their due and calls each to assume responsibility for themselves. Mercy goes beyond the issues of who is responsible. Mercy is simply love’s response to suffering. So the Father of Mercy, to relieve our suffering, sent his Eternal Son to be made flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit. God the Son, by nature incapable of suffering, became vulnerable for us. He bound the strong man who had tyrannized the human race and paid the debt that the human race hadn’t been able to cover. His rescue mission succeeded at the cost of his life.
This is what the Mass commemorates and makes present again. The one who once gave himself in mercy to relieve our suffering continues to give himself to us, holding nothing back, in the sacrament of sacraments, the sacrament of divine mercy.
But why does he so give himself under the form of food? That we may become what we eat. That we may grow in holiness, which is to say, become more perfect in that divine love that we call charity. Mercy is just what charity does when it encounters suffering.
The Eucharist, then cannot exist in isolation from life. It is the liturgical commemoration of a Work of Mercy that is designed to issue in works of mercy. Thus mercy is essential to the life of every member of the Church until evil and suffering are no more. St James reminds us that Christianity that responds to suffering with no more than kind words and tender sentiments is neither true love nor even authentic faith: “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one o f you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?”(James 2:14-17)
Some things to keep in mind about the work mercy in the Church:
The late John Paul the Great wrote an Encyclical on God the Father near the beginning of His Pontificate. With all the possible descriptions and titles for God used in Scripture and Tradition, what was he to title such an encyclical? The answer for him was simple: “Rich in Mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). God is preeminently the Father of Mercies and the God of all Consolation (2 Corinthians 1:3). The way we can be recognized as his authentic offspring is by living a lifestyle of mercy. It is interesting that in the only description of the last judgment in the Bible, salvation or damnation hangs not on how much religious art people have in their houses or how many Masses they’ve attended, but how they’ve treated the least of Jesus’ needy brothers and sisters (see Matthew 25:34-46).
|The Spiritual Works of Mercy||The Corporal Works of Mercy|
|1. To instruct the ignorant||1. To feed the hungry|
|2. To counsel the doubtful||2. To give drink to the thirsty|
|3. To admonish the sinner||3. To clothe the naked|
|4. To bear wrongs patiently||4. To shelter the homeless|
|5. To forgive offenses willingly||5. To visit the sick|
|6. To comfort the afflicted||6. To rescue the captive|
|7. To pray for the living and the dead||7. To bury the dead|
Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.
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