Updated: Apr 11, 2021
In the last post we talked about being a modern day prophet and the different ways of verbally witnessing. However, being a prophet doesn't always have to involve a conversation or even words.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
In some cases caring for the physical needs of others has to take precedence, over the spiritual needs, in order that both might be fulfilled. Enter the Corporal Works of Mercy, which are mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. (Matthew 25:35-36)
The corporal works of mercy are specific guidelines, laid out by Christ, on how we can aid those around us without even opening our mouths. So have no fear if you don't feel called to witness through the gift of conversation, because your gifts might be better suited elsewhere. By ministering to other's physical needs first, you can create a segue into their spiritual needs, breaking down barriers that might have otherwise prevented the light of Christ's mercy and love from shining through.
If you think about it, the logic makes sense. When you're hungry, it's almost impossible to think of anything else, besides the gnawing pain growing in your stomach. The same goes for when you're thirsty, tired, sick, cold, or in despair. Now imagine feeling more than one or all of those at the same time. No one wants to listen to a Ted Talk about Jesus, or any speech for that matter when they're feeling destitute. Sometimes, in order to plant the seeds, you need to fertilize the soil.
It is important to note, however, that in order to fulfill these works of mercy in a way that will bear fruit, they must be done with love, care, and joy as the foundations. They're called "corporal" works of mercy for a reason. The word "corporal" not only means "relating to the human body", but it's also the name of the cloth which holds the chalice and paten during the celebration of the Eucharist. Just as the corporal at mass is tasked with protecting the precious Body and Blood of Christ, so also are the corporal works of mercy in place to protect Christ's mystical body, her people.
An example of a charitable heart, can be found in the story of St. Lawrence, a young archdeacon during the year 258 A.D. who was arrested by Emperor Valerian and sentenced to death. Before killing him, Emperor Valerian demanded that Lawrence hand over all of the riches of the Church and gave him 3 days to sort it all out. During that time, instead of gathering everything to be handed over, Lawrence sold and donated as much as he could get his hands on. When the 3 days were up, Lawrence again stood before the emperor, however this time he was surrounded by the poor, crippled, widowed, and sick, as he gleefully proclaimed, “These are the true treasures of the Church."
Maybe God is calling you to use your cooking skills to help out at your local soup kitchen, or use your caring spirit to bring comfort to the sick. Maybe it's something completely unremarkable like smiling at a stranger on the street or making a new coworker feel welcome at work. A wise man once told me, a breathtaking painting of fruit glorifies God more than a careless painting of the Blessed Mother. However God is calling you to witness, just make sure you do it to the best of your ability, because as Jesus himself said, "...Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."(Mark 25:40) and doesn't our Lord and Savior who gave His own life for our wretchedness, deserve the absolute best we have to offer?