I’ve been reflecting on Matthew 25: 31-40 during the quarantine — this is the story where the fallen ask Jesus, “When did we see you hungry?” and he replies that they ignored his presence in the least of their brethren. This new time of social distancing has made it difficult to see practically anyone — we don’t go out, we don’t gather as we used to — but I fear it has made it uniquely hard to see the poor. If this is true, it will influence our spirituality. In the words of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, “In the end, Jesus did not teach an ascending mysticism of closed eyes, but rather a God-mysticism with an increased readiness for perceiving, a mysticism of open eyes, which sees more and not less.” Each of us must examine our experience of quarantine and discern if we have been separated from the poor — and thus separated from Christ himself.
Make no mistake — it’s in the most troubling times in history that God chooses to reveal himself and raise up great saints to witness to his mercy! Now it’s up to each of us to ask:
- How will God reveal himself to me anew in the poor during this time?
- How will God reveal his presence and his mercy to the world through me?
Through my position in the Office of Christian Service, I have seen firsthand the radical compassion that many have shown to the least among us in this unprecedented time. The Church has not stood down — we have numerous Christian service ministers, social service ministries, priests and parishioners who have continued manning their posts through the worst of this pandemic!
Unleash the Gospel calls all members of the Church to participate in the New Evangelization and “actively seek the spiritual and social renewal of [our] neighborhoods, schools and places of work.” In times of intense crisis, we can be distracted by a need to save the whole world — and so it is important to remember that Jesus most often healed and transformed people one at a time. Therefore, it makes no difference if you feed your neighbor by delivering groceries to one doorstep or by running a food pantry if what you are doing is what Christ has called you to do!
Each of the corporal works is a visible and tangible act through which we reveal the presence and love of God the Father to the world:
- Feed the Hungry
- Give Drink to the Thirsty
- Shelter the Homeless
- Visit the Sick
- Visit the Prisoners
- Bury the Dead
- Give Alms to the Poor
How might you be called to witness the mercy of Jesus in your own neighborhood?
We shouldn’t overthink what Jesus is calling us to do — as Pope Francis said in 2016, “Often it is the people closest to us who need our help. We should not go out in search of some unknown business to accomplish. It is better to begin with the simplest, which the Lord tells us is the most urgent.” Jesus will guide us as we unleash the Gospel!
For fruitful reflection on how to live out both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy I invite you to check out the following resources:
- The Corporate and Spiritual Works of Mercy during COVID-19, USCCB
- “What Can I Do?”: Living the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy during COVID-19, Catholic Apostolate Center
- 50 Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy for your Summer Bucket List, Focus on Campus
- Coronavirus Facts and How to Help, Catholic Relief Services