Easter Transformation in the Christian Life
As the natural world begins to show the first signs of transformation to new life in spring beauty, the followers of Jesus celebrate another transforming event in human history. We move through Lent to the days of Holy Week with their powerful accounts of the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, whose spirit transforms us in our call to witness to Jesus’ ongoing presence in the world.
We move from there to the Easter and Pentecost seasons and to the ordinary time of the Church year. Are we any different year by year? Is the world a better place because we both personally and as a community of faith respond to Jesus’ call to be the body of Christ today?
Two specific checklists come to us over the centuries. They name simple, direct and measurable practices set forth long ago by the early Christian community as ways to continue the mission of Jesus. They are known as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and you may have memorized them in school years long ago. Just in case they don’t spring readily to mind, here they are:
Corporal Works of Mercy
- To feed the hungry
- To give drink to the thirsty
- To clothe the naked
- To shelter the homeless
- To visit the imprisoned
- To visit the sick
- To bury the dead
Spiritual Works of Mercy
- To admonish the sinner
- To counsel the doubtful
- To comfort the sorrowful
- To instruct the ignorant
- To forgive all injuries
- To bear wrongs patiently
- To pray for the living and the dead
As you reflect on these simple statements, you may find that even without conscious thought many of these practices are part of your daily life. If so, you have a sure sign that Jesus is alive and active in your choices because of the gifts of transforming grace offered those who are the body of Christ in this 21st century. One of our contemporary worship songs speaks from its Scripture source when we sing:
We are the body of Christ, broken and poured out,
promise of life from death, we are the body of Christ.
Is not the bread of life we break a sharing in the life of God?
Is not the cup of peace outpoured the blood of Christ?
Come taste and see the goodness, the wonders of the risen one!
Come bless our God, in all things, let praise be our song!
— Table Song, David Haas
GIA Publications, Inc.
Your reflection may lead you to surprise as you recognize and give thanks for the action of the Holy Spirit in your life. You might discover more ways that these works of mercy, which are also acts of love and justice, can enrich your life and that of the neighbor whom we are to love as we love ourselves. As one example, think of the hours and energy you spend in feeding the hungry! From growing, buying and preparing food to serve meals for family or friends, to volunteering at soup kitchens; from supporting efforts such as Bread for the World, to lobbying for political action that provides food for those in need; the list goes on and on. The same patterns may be found in the other corporal works of mercy. Search them out in your life and, where possible, increase them!
Some further thought about the spiritual works of mercy may also surprise you. While admonishing the sinner may not seem appealing, you know that it is at times a needed reminder to another if it comes with loving concern. Many occasions arise where you can counsel, comfort, instruct or pray for others. The two works that may be most difficult are forgiving all injuries and bearing wrongs patiently! The spirit of Jesus will act within us if we are willing to accept the grace offered to us.
The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are ordinary paths open to everyone. Our daily lives can be animated by the faith that we are the body of Christ, visibly witnessing to his continued presence in the world. Jesus is risen and is still with us, and the Spirit of Jesus animates us in simple and profound ways. Our transformation takes place in the celebration of the Eucharist, that great act of thanksgiving and praise, source and center of our life in Christ, where, as St. Augustine taught long ago, “We become what we eat: the Body of Christ.” We also become who we are: Christians who love one another as Christ has loved us.