November 8, 2016 // Local

YOM: Don’t forget to show your work

Michael Stanek hugs his daughter Kennedy as they take a break from sifting though the rubble of their tornado-ravished home in Vilonia, Ark., on April 30, 2014. The work of mercy telling us to comfort the sorrowful (or afflicted) can help us, in times of sorrow, find strength in words, but it also moves us to act to help others.

By Mike Nelson 

Recently, I did a quick Internet search of the spiritual work of mercy that tells us to “comfort the sorrowful.” This search yielded several Scripture references and citations that are quite familiar to many of us.

Some of them included Psalm 34:18 (“The righteous cry out, the Lord hears and he rescues them from all their afflictions”), Revelation 21:4 (“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes”), and Matthew 5:4 (“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted”).

Others that turned up in my search were less familiar, but no less relevant. Among them: Joshua 1:9 (“Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go”) and Philippians 4:7 (“The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”).

These, and many others, offer much to inspire and console us in difficult times that we, and others, face on our journey on this earth. This work of mercy telling us to comfort the sorrowful (or afflicted) can help us, in times of sorrow, find strength in words, but it also moves us to act to help others.

Every one of us faces difficulty in this life. There are difficult moments waiting for all of us, including some that may make us feel, if only for a time, as if we are beyond consolation.

Jesus, while he used plenty of words in his teaching that can now help us to console others, performed plenty of actions, too — even miracles — to proclaim the word and the presence of God in the world. In His preaching He also used parables, stories of action, to illustrate the depth of God’s love for us.

None, to my mind, offers a more compelling portrayal of God’s mercy than the story of the prodigal son, especially in its closing words: “He was lost and has been found” (Lk 15:32).

This parable suggests that when we comfort the sorrowful, or the “lost,” if you will, we can make a positive impact. It calls to mind a “lost and found” story that my wife experienced many, many years ago.

In her role as a radio news reporter, my wife regularly read public service announcements near the end of each newscast. One morning, the announcement she read was about an agency that offered crisis counseling.

She read it and continued on with her newscast. She pretty much forgot about the announcement until a few weeks later when a letter came to her in the mail.

The letter was from a listener who had heard her reading the announcement, which told the listeners where and how to get help for that particular issue. The listener wrote how troubled and desperate he had felt.

In fact, he said, he was almost to the point of giving up. “But there was something in your voice,” he wrote in the letter, “that was so comforting, so encouraging, that I called the number you gave, and I got the help that I needed.”

The listener said nothing about being Catholic or even religious. Very clearly, though, he had been touched by both the message and the messenger, the latter who believed (and, let me assure you, believes to this day) that words without actions mean little.

While we may not always be so lucky to see the fruit of our works of mercy, you can be sure that for some, they are much appreciated.

Mike Nelson, a freelance writer, is former editor of The Tidings, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.


Six new beatitudes for the modern age

On Nov. 1, at the end of an ecumenical trip to Sweden, Pope Francis enumerated a list of beatitudes for the modern age: Two of those speak to the care that should be shown to the afflicted, those who are suffering or downtrodden for any reason.

• “Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.

• “Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.”

These and the other four modern beatitudes “are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness,” he told Catholic News Service. 

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