THE SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY (2)
Being the Text of Lecture Delivered at the Owerri Archdiocesan Laity: Seminar/Retreat to mark the LAITY IN THE JUBILEE YEAR OF MERCY on Friday, November 11, 2016
By Patrick Chukwukere
To Instruct the Ignorant
In law and in ordinary parlance it is said: ignorantia legis neminem excusat (ignorance of the law excuses nobody). Pope Paul VI said: “There is no disease but ignorance”. The prophet exclaims: “My people perish for want of knowledge” (Hosea 3:6). Ignorance implies lack of knowledge. Ignorance does not shield anyone: The one [servant] who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes (Lk 12:48). Therefore, those who are comfortable with ignorance should watch it. Du Bois-Reymond coined this expression: ignoramus et ignorabimus (we are ignorant and shall remain ignorant); these belong to the achoigh m ima group. Teaching is said to be a noble profession. Socrates was an Athenian philosopher and teacher whose method of teaching gave rise to the expression: Socratic Method which is the dialectical method of teaching or discussion used by Socrates, involving the asking of a series of questions that inevitably lead the answerer to a logical conclusion foreseen by the questioner. He instructed people in the streets of Athens. The biblical injunction by Christ: Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19), is not only to the clergy, but it is also for all those who are baptised and have received the sacrament of Confirmation in the Catholic Church.
To Bear Wrongs Patiently
Again, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and his Mother Mary are the best examples here. Of Christ, Isaiah said: Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughterhouse, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth….though he had done no wrong and there had been no perjury in his mouth (Is 53:7-9). And of Mary, Pope Pius XI said: “When her beloved Son was consummating the redemption of mankind on the altar of the Cross, she stood at His side, suffering and redeeming with him.” “From this union of sufferings and of will between Mary and Christ, says Pope St. Pius X, “she merited to become most worthily the Restorer of the lost world and the Dispenser of all the graces Jesus purchased by His death and by His blood.” Mary was calm at the terrifying prophecy of Simeon: “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword shall pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare” (LK 2:35).
A wrong done to one should be seen by one as a cross. When cross is borne without complain, the image of Christ is made manifest. The cross carried ungrudgingly becomes a fountain of grace.
To Admonish Sinners
This fifth spiritual works of mercy should be executed in humility conscious of the fact that we are all sinners. To admonish is to reprove mildly; to warn that persistence in sinning, particularly grievously, is dangerous. Charity, the queen of virtues, is essential in admonishing sinners. You hardly can win some one back by harsh treatment or rebuke. We should bear in mind that what is offensive to God is the sin not the sinner. In his unfathomable benevolence, he is ever ready at all times to embrace the repentant sinner. The parable of the prodigal son is as illuminating as it is instructive.
In admonishing Jerusalem Christ says: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you desolate, for I promise, you shall not see me any more until you say: Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt 23:37-39; Lk 13:34-35). We should always learn from Christ.
To Comfort the Afflicted
Comforting the afflicted engenders a therapeutic effect hence ndi Igbo nasi: (rendered in Owere dialect) irekpaole jeagwo onye orea. The newest saint of the Catholic Church, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, executed the comfort of the afflicted to a heroic level. She went about the streets gathering the poorest of the poor, those most afflicted and neglected, helpless, dying some in the streets, some in the gutters, and gave them comfort and hope. She was canonised on Sunday, September4, 2016, by Pope Francis.
To be contd.