Welcoming travelers and showing hospitality was an important characteristic of Jewish people in the Old Testament and continues in the New Testament. Just a few examples are Deuteronomy 10:19 and Leviticus 19:34; Matthew 5:43-44, 25:35, 40; Romans 13:8, 10; Hebrews 13:1 and Romans 12:13. Jesus also told a story or parable about how to treat our "neighbors." It's the story of the Good Samaritan and the neighbor in question is a complete stranger (Luke 10:29-37). While traveling a main road a man is set upon by robbers who beat him, strip him and leave him half dead. Some people, who certainly knew how to treat a traveler, passed him by. But a Samaritan, a person possibly less-versed in Jewish law, stopped and saw to the victim's every need - care for his wounds, transportation and lodging, plus all of his expenses. The Samaritan not only saw the man in the road, he treated him like family, with love, and took care of him. It was the Samaritan who showed mercy.
The first four of the Corporal Works of Mercy are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked and shelter the homeless or the traveler. The Good Samaritan did all of these at one time. He treated the hapless man with respect and dignity. He didn't ask what kind of man the victim was, whether he was Jewish or Roman, slave or free, good or evil. He saw someone who desperately needed help and he provided it.
For Reflection: Many people today are without jobs, without homes, without enough medical insurance. If we want to follow the command of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself, we must respond. We cannot pass by, blind to the need and suffering of others.
Let us pray. Jesus, as I travel the roads, help me to see, to love, to respond in mercy.
Some years back a young woman from my office ended up in the hospital in ICU. Honestly, the doctors had no idea what was wrong with her. What seemed to start out as a cold turned into a high fever with a coma. After a few days I had figured out the doctor's schedule and tried to be there when the doctor arrived. The news was grim: she was not expected to recover and the hospital was recommending transfer to a long term care facility. Her hands had already started to develop the curve common to deep coma patients.
When I was with her each day, I began to call her out of the coma, to call her to wake up. Although I didn't see it happen, later that day friends reported that her eyelids were beginning to flutter. In another day her eyes were open.
The doctor said that the left side of her body was paralyzed and would never regain movement. My approach by then was to simply contradict whatever the doctor negatively diagnosed and to sing in tongues whenever I was with her. She began to move her left side. The doctor said she could hear but didn't know English. I knew better and proved it to a room full of hospital staff. Although she was on her way to recovery, she still had no idea who I was. The doctor said she would not speak again. More prayer. She spoke.
They moved her out of ICU onto a floor for patients who had suffered a stroke. The doctors admitted she had not had a stroke, but she had weakness like a person after a stroke. Physical therapy began to rebuild her strength. The doctors said she would not regain her ability to swallow and would have to be fed through a feeding tube the rest of her life. I continued to contradict, in prayer, what the doctor prophesied and to pray over her in tongues. Finally, she remembered me. She was speaking, weakly and hoarsely, but she was speaking. Her mother had arrived from South America and was sitting by her side and praying also by this time. She was walking and moving both sides of her body.
She was transferred to a rehabilitation facility. Eventually she completely recovered because God healed her and healed her and healed her. She was wasn't healed instantaneously, but over a period of a couple of months she regained all of her previous abilities and was able to go home and be with her husband and young daughter again. Later she returned to work.
"To visit the sick" is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. Visiting the sick is something many people do. But when Christians visit the sick their purpose is to pray for healing and to persevere in that prayer. Doctors diagnose what they can see and test for. But Our Doctor healed people, raised them from the dead, and rose from the dead himself. That's the kind of visiting doctor we should be.
For Reflection: Do I shy away from visiting the sick? Do I offer to pray with them when I visit?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the Divine Healer. I offer myself to be used by you to not only visit the sick but also to pray with them. I offer to persevere in that prayer and not become discouraged.
Another of the Corporal Works of Mercy is to "visit the imprisoned" or to "ransom the captive". Visiting and ransoming, although both good, are really quite different things. Visiting someone leaves them in their current state while ransoming them takes them out of it. Jesus was not concerned about visiting people, but he was concerned about ransoming them. He was so concerned about ransoming us from the snares of Satan and sin that he died to set us free. Had he become man and not died and risen for us he would have just visited us. As Paul says, if that were the case our faith would be in vain and we would still be in our sins - a condition to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). Jesus did much more than visit us.
And so, what should we, as followers of Christ, be about? Should we be visiting the imprisoned or ransoming the captives? Visiting someone in prison is certainly a good deed, a work of mercy. When we visit a prisoner we should always bring them the good news and help to ransom their soul from sin even if we cannot affect the imprisonment of their body. At the very least we should pray with them and assure them of God's eternal love.
Ransoming captives, although an archaic phrase, still has meaning and relevance today. Many people are held captive physically, spiritually, or emotionally. People who are being trafficked for sex, held as slaves within a household are being held captive. People dependent upon illegal drugs are held captive. People physically or emotionally abused are held captive. People addicted to pornography or any other sin are held captive.
For Reflection: The Corporal Work of Mercy to visit the imprisoned or ransom the captive is still relevant and necessary today. How am I living it out? How have I helped to set someone free? When have I visited someone in prison to bring them the good news?
Let us pray. Jesus, I thank you for doing so much more than visiting me. I thank you for dying to set me free. I want to follow your example and work with you to help set others free. Help me to see the captives I pass by every day.
As you may have noticed with the posts on Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and on Judas, I have been thinking about some of the characters who are mentioned in the last days of Jesus' life. Joseph of Arimethea is named as the one who asked Pilate for Jesus' body so that he could be buried quickly. In John's gospel, Nicodemus assists Joseph with the burial rites (John 19:38-42).
It seems to me that Joseph and Nicodemus did this at great risk to themselves as Jews. Jesus had been killed for being a blasphemer and insurrectionist. Stepping up to claim the body closely associates them with Jesus - something none of the remaining apostles were around to do. And so, although hurried, they perform a great act of mercy. Burying the dead is known as one of the Corporal Works of Mercy.
Nowadays most of us don't have the opportunity to physically bury someone. We have funeral homes to handle the preparation of the body and cemeteries to prepare the grave site. Yet from time-to-time we have the opportunity to attend funerals in order to honor the one who has died and to comfort the grieving. It is an act of mercy to do so (Matthew 5:7) and a means of fulfilling the command to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:35-40).
For Reflection: Have I ever thought myself to be too busy to attend a funeral? Have I in any way dishonored the dead? Have I made plans for my own death and funeral? As he was dying, Jesus made arrangements for his mother (John 19:26-27). Perhaps the next time I attend a funeral I will remember Joseph and Nicodemus who gave of themselves in a time of need.
Let us pray. Jesus, may I be as faithful to you and to others as Joseph and Nicodemus were.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.