For several weeks now I have written and reflected upon the Corporal Works of Mercy. During these seven weeks of reflection, some moments have been quite coincidental.
The week I wrote about feeding the hungry – actually the day I wrote about that topic – my neighbor made entirely to much dinner and fed my family with her extra food.
The week of the topic “clothe the naked”, a friend of mine gave me a bag full of hand-me-downs for my son. There were so many clothes in that bag I don’t have to buy any play clothes for my son for the next year. The clothes looked brand new. Not only did none of them look like they had ever been worn but I had extra and gave some to a friend who also has a young son.
The week I wrote about “giving drink to the thirsty” my friend invited me over for a glass of wine.
Somewhere between the weeks of “visiting the sick and the imprisoned”, a flu-like virus ran through my house which allowed me to “visit” my sick husband and son, and then become “imprisoned” by that same virus I had hoped I would dodge.
Do you ever experience moments in life, where you think the Lord is just reminding you He’s right there. A little tap on the shoulder . . . maybe a wink and a smile ;). I would love to hear about it!
I have to admit that I’m a little nervous about reflecting and writing about The Spiritual Works of Mercy. They appear to be more challenging. It’s culturally acceptable to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty (at least in theory) in our society. Helping the poor is valued as a kind and generous act. However, when I look at the list of Spiritual Works of Mercy, I don’t see modern America shouting, “Amen!”.
I would also like to admit, I had to look them up. I’m pretty sure I remember writing them in my Confirmation book. I wrote my Confirmation book in 1985. I’m not sure the last time I really thought about them. So, in case you are like me and are googling what they are – here’s the list:
- Admonish the Sinner
- Bear wrongs patiently
- Comfort the Sorrowful
- Counsel the Doubtful
- Forgive all injuries
- Instruct the ignorant
- Pray for the Living and the Dead
Admonish the Sinner
Some lists put “Admonish the Sinner” third. I’m going to follow this list and jump right into the completely unpopular idea to Admonish the Sinner.
As I read some articles on this Work of Mercy, I sighed a huge breath of relief when I came across authors who wrote about the role of a parent in raising his or her child. That type of admonishing is easy to accept. If we don’t teach our children right from wrong, we really can’t expect them to know there is a difference! We know this, and thankfully, for the most part, our culture still embraces it.
As I reflected on the Work of Mercy though, I felt strongly that it is not just about parent and child. However, it is not (in my opinion) about our responsibility to walk around criticizing anyone we see doing wrong. My gut tells me that the only sinners I can rightfully admonish, are people in my life who I truly love and with whom I have a strong relationship. I also feel admonishing the sinner is only called for when we observe a loved one making destructive choices, or who are simply neglecting his or her relationship with the Lord and seem to have been doing so over an extended period of time.
This gut extinct was confirmed when I read the article “Admonish the Sinner”: Pope Francis and the Third Spiritual Work of Mercy. The author, Philip Kosloski, discusses how Pope Francis preaches and promotes a more uplifting, positive, warm and inviting way to love and lead. Kosloski points out, “we must first establish a familial relationship and then instruct in such a way that heals.”
This advice makes perfect sense. If we constantly hear negativity and criticism, we turn a deaf ear, or find ways to judge the person who we feel is putting us down. I always think of the phrase, “you’ll get more flies with honey . . .”
I know I’m a sinner – we all are sinners. I also know I’m EXTREMELY sensitive. I am sure in the past if and when I have been “admonished” that I immediately became the world’s greatest defense attorney. Hopefully in the future, when someone “admonishes” me, I will allow my pride to take a back seat and put my desire to love God and others first. I hope I will listen, change my behavior, then tell a funny joke and move on . . .
I asked my husband what he thought “admonish the sinner” meant. He, almost immediately, said that when I stand in front of an abortion clinic, I’m admonishing sinners. He added, “you’re not wagging your finger at people, but you’re making a statement that something – in this example abortion – is wrong.” He said your not judging people but you are stating than an act is indeed a sin. So there you have it – Wisdom from Matt Brooks.
Maybe I’ll make it a point to get a quote in from him each week :).
How do you “admonish sinners” without getting them to shut down? Have you ever been “admonished”? How did you handle it?
If you are interested in the article I quoted – here it is! http://www.ncregister.com/blog/philip-kosloski/admonish-the-sinner-pope-francis-and-the-third-spiritual-work-of-mercy/#ixzz42BYhl100