Evangelize by both words and deeds
We are now well into the Bishop’s Year of the Bible, a moniker, by the way, which did not originate from me! My aim with this year is to help us see Jesus in the Scriptures, to see the Word of God in the Word of God. It occurred to me that during this time of pandemic, we needed to keep our evangelizing efforts going and this was one way to do so.
The other way is to practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Now in this time of social distancing, these actions may seem impossible, but they are not. There are many ways for us creatively to exercise these good deeds. The seven spiritual works are counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the sorrowful, forgiving injuries, bearing wrongs patiently and praying for the living and the dead. Certainly, in our families, in those day-to-day interactions, we can all exercise these works. Any time we seek to do this consciously and intentionally, we need to make sure that we are acting out of love, seeking the best for the other person. We can also try to use our writing and phone and computer skills to reach out to others, especially those who might be alone. In these times, especially, we need to forgive, not only for the other’s sake, but so that we will be freed from burdens that we do not need to bear. And we can always pray, lifting up to our loving Father all those in need, both the living and the dead.
There are also seven corporal works. Many of these are described in that great scene in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25, where Jesus separates the sheep from the goats on the basis of how well we cared for those in need. He tells us that we are thus treating one of his brothers or sisters. These works are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead. The visiting activities are tough in these days, but again we can try to meet these needs by writing or calling.
If we are striving to exercise these works of mercy, we will be evangelizing by our deeds as well as by our words. We have noticed a great fall-off in those attending Mass. Of course, many have very good reasons for doing so. Perhaps, after prayer and a conscious effort of love, we might reach out to our family members through one or more of these actions to let them see that for us, at least, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. May the witness of our lives and our words invite back our brothers and sisters to the House of God and the Altar of the Lord.