The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned and burying the dead. The spiritual and corporal works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily needs..
Everyone is obliged to perform works of mercy, according to his own ability and the need of his neighbor. It is important to remember that ordinary deeds done every day to relieve the corporal and/or spiritual needs of others are true works of mercy, if done in the name of Christ. Remember it is also Christ we are ministering to. “Whatever you do to one of these…you do to me!” (Matthew 25:40)
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
- “The works of mercy 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. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.
CORPORAL WORK OF MERCY CLOTHE THE NAKED
We can clean out closets and donate the extras. But isn’t there something more? Can we simplify our lives and our wardrobes? How many pairs of shoes do I own? Can’t I donate more than my excess? Can I winnow down my wardrobe to basics and donate more just than out-of-date and outgrown clothing?
It’s not just about giving unwanted things away but about owning less and offering support to those who don’t have enough. In times past, there may have been many people who only possessed the clothes on their backs, and those might have been so threadbare and worn out that the person might have been virtually naked.
Although times have changed, and there are few people (in the western world at least) who are so desperately impoverished, this Corporal Work of Mercy is still important and applicable today: how many people today are impoverished, in need of better clothing, in need of appropriately warm clothing for the winter, etc.?
Could we be more mindful of the material needs of our brothers and sisters? Remember: it is not charity to give our trashy clothing, or dirty clothing, to the poor. Let’s give them clothing that is clean, in good condition, and befits their dignity as children of God. Jesus challenges us to be much more active when he said to the sheep on his right, “[I was] naked, and you covered me” (Matthew 25:36). God wants us to be active in our works of mercy and to touch the lives of individual people.
One of the most famous modern-day examples who “clothed” the naked was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Each morning she would go out into the streets to find men and women too sick to care for themselves. After carrying them back to the hospice, Mother Teresa would bathe, clothe and feed them. She believed everyone deserves to be treated with great dignity and actively helped the poor in her community for the rest of her life.
Mother Teresa would often say,“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. … You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.”
When we search out the “naked” of our local community, we shouldn’t only be looking for those without clothes. We should also look for those who are rejected, alone, and forgotten. They too are “naked,” without friends or family, stripped of all meaningful human relationships.
They often feel invisible and think that no one cares about them. It is our duty as Christians to comfort, console and “clothe” them. We may not have to give them actual clothes, but we certainly can give them our love, time and presence.
Jesus said to St. Faustina: “… I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it” (Diary of St. Faustina, 742