|DaVinci's Last Supper|
The theme of hunger weaves in and out of the Elisha and Gospel stories. So many people today hunger not only for bread, but for justice, for freedom, for peace, yes, for God.
Pope Francis continually challenges us to satisfy the different hungers of the human family, to practice the so-called corporal works of mercy, Jesus’ blueprint for treating people fairly.
In Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus proclaims that we will be judged by our positive response to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked and the prisoner. In other words, we love God to the extent that we care for our fellow human being.
Feed the hungry. In doing so, we feed Christ himself. We might contribute to such organizations as Catholic Relief Services. Closer to home, we might feed intellectually hungry children. And nurture their hunger for God. There are countless opportunities to feed the hungry: physically, intellectually, spiritually and socially.
Give drink to the thirsty. When we pollute, when waste makes water undrinkable, we put lives at risk. We have a responsibility to care for this planet of ours, to be good stewards of God’s universe. Pope Francis in his letter “Laudato Si” urges us to care for our common home.
Clothe the naked. What about a fall or spring “closet cleaning?” Do we really need all those clothes?
Shelter the homeless. Yes, government should provide systemic solutions, e.g., meaningful work. But we also can volunteer with or support, e.g., Habitat for Humanity, which creates homes for needy families.
Visit the sick. Comfort them with hope. Especially the terminally ill need our presence. A short visit can do wonders. It allows them to transcend their feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
Ransom the captive. Connected to this is the fight for political and religious freedom, economic conditions that foster dignity, an environment conducive to raising a family. We need to stand up for the right of the unborn to life in this world, and the right of the elderly to die with dignity. Another dimension is concern for people in our prisons; many visit to show someone cares, to share faith, to teach, to pray.
Finally, Bury the dead. Franciscans worldwide celebrate the Transitus (or passing) of St. Francis of Assisi on October 3. It highlights our own pilgrimage from this earthly life through the mystery of death into eternal life. Yes, it is natural to mourn someone’s passing. Our hearts should reach out to mourners throughout the grieving process.
We can think of a hundred and one ways to practice the so-called “seven works of mercy” in our daily lives as Jesus calls us to. On the day or judgment, let us pray that God will say to us: Come, inherit the kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food; thirsty and you gave me drink; a stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you clothed me; ill and you cared for me. Yes, how we live today has profound – indeed eternal – consequences.