Daily Series on the Catechism

PART  III:  LIFE IN CHRIST

Section Two:  The Ten Commandments

Chapter 2:  “You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself”

Article 7,  The Seventh Commandment

VI.  Love for the Poor (cont’d)

§ 2447  The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities (cf. Isaiah 58:6-7; Hebrews 13:3). Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God (cf. Tobit 4:5-11; Sirach 17:22; Mt 6:2-4):

  • “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food must do likewise” (Luke 3:11). “But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you” (Lk 11:41). If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16; cf. 1 John 3:17).

§ 2448  “In its various forms – material deprivation, unjust oppression, physical and psychological illness and death – human misery is the obvious sign of the inherited condition of frailty and need for salvation in which man finds himself as a consequence of Original Sin. This misery elicited the compassion of Christ the Savior, who willingly took it upon Himself and identified Himself with the least of His brethren.

Hence, those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity which remain indispensable always and everywhere” (CDF: “Libertatis Conscientia [Freedom of Conscience]”, 68).

§ 2449  Beginning with the Old Testament, all kinds of juridical measures (the jubilee year of forgiveness of debts, prohibition of loans at interest and the keeping of collateral, the obligation to tithe, the daily payment of the day-laborer, the right to glean vines and fields) answer the exhortation of Deuteronomy: “For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land’” (Deut 15:11).

Jesus makes these words his own: “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me” (Jn 12:8). In so doing, He does not soften the vehemence of former oracles against “buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals…”, but invites us to recognize His own Presence in the poor who are His brethren (Amos 8:6; cf. Mt 25:40):

  • “When her mother reproached her for caring for the poor and the sick at home, St. Rose of Lima said to her: ‘When we serve the poor and the sick, we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus” (ViM).

Tomorrow – In Brief

(Part III, Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 7 – to be continued)

[Editor’s Note:  The abbreviations in today’s posting are noted below.]

  • “CDF” – “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”, Declaration (Oct 1976)
  • “cf.” – “confer [compare or refer to]”
  • “ViM” – St. Rose of Lima in P. Hansen’s (Louvain, 1668), “Vita Mirabilis [Life is Wonderful]”
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