Mercy and defending life

My dear friends in Christ,

The inauguration of the Year of Mercy should be for all apostles and defenders of human life an impetus to live more faithfully and fully the message of the Gospel of Life in which Christ our Saviour calls us to be as merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.  (Lk.6:36)

Whenever one faithfully practices the Christian life by acting mercifully towards one’s neighbour, one’s concern actually encompasses Christ personally (Mt.25:40).  As such, any act of mercy becomes fruitful and blossoms into eternal life.  In order to be merciful, it is necessary to know specifically in what mercy consists.  St. Augustine defines mercy as a “heartfelt sympathy for another’s distress, impelling us to help him if we can.”

By exhorting us to be as merciful as is our Heavenly Father, Christ invites us to take a path, which is intrinsic to the nature of mercy, that is, a path leading to divine greatness manifested by our generosity in dealing with others.  A simple act of mercy, then, may bring solace in a time of great need. (Prov.22:9)  Since this generosity is, however, a characteristic chiefly belonging to persons of influence, authority or power, it is a distinctive feature of God, who being all powerful, manifests His goodness by being, Himself, all merciful. (Ex.34:6-7)

The ultimate formula for governing our lives is found in God’s greatest commandment, which obligates us to love Him above all things and our neighbour as ourselves. (Mt.22:35-40)  The guidelines for keeping this greatest commandment are the avoidance of doing evil by observing the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:1-17) and earnestly doing good by practising the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  St Paul, while encouraging the performance of the works of mercy, nevertheless, pointed out that they should originate from a love for God Himself: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony”.  (Col.3:12-14)

This love for God, which consists in keeping His commandments (Jn.14:15) finds concrete expression in the seven corporal and in the seven spiritual works of mercy.  These specifically are

The 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 sick;
  • To visit those in prison;
  • To bury the dead.

The spiritual works of mercy

  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To comfort the sorrowful;
  • To exhort sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.

Both the natural and the divine positive law impose a strict duty on us to carry out the works of mercy.  Whilst the natural law requirement is based upon the principle that we are to do to others as we would have them do to us (Mt.7:12), the positive divine law comes from Christ under the supreme penalty of eternal damnation (Mt.25:41).  The corporal works were each directly and explicitly stated by Christ.  The spiritual works, however, are all implied in scripture and deal with a distress whose relief is of even greater imperative as well as more effective for the grand purpose of our creation, which is, eternal life.

The intrinsic character of both the spiritual and corporal works reveals that ‘we are our brother’s keeper’. (Eph.4:25)  In the case of the spiritual works, Christ enjoins fraternal correction (Mt.18:15) as well as the forgiveness of injuries (Mt.6:14).  A certain degree of tact and prudence is required in fulfilling the first four of the spiritual works as each case depends largely on the degree of distress to be aided, and the competency or condition of the one to whom the responsibility falls. (Col.4:6)  However, the last three, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offences willingly and to pray for the living and the dead, are within the reach of all and, consequently, one may not dispense oneself on the plea that one lacks some special array of gifts required for their observance.

In this Year of Mercy, all of us, as apostles for the Gospel of Life, are invited to redouble our efforts in order that the teachings of the Gospel of Life may bear greater fruit.  For example, today, there are many people in our world who are genuinely misled the ignorant in regard to the life issues; they are unable to accept that abortion is nothing other than child killing and, that euthanasia, fatuously called called mercy killing, is murder in disguise.  Imbued with a love of God, we must courageously embrace the task of instructing and guiding our ill-informed brethren.  Likewise, we should counsel the doubtful, that is, those, for instance, who are considering IVF or surrogacy and are uncertain as to what is the correct thing to do.  True compassion requires that we give comfort to those who are depressed or are grieving because of mistakes they may have made, such as those, for example, who are contemplating suicide, or whose suffering arises from post abortion trauma or a broken marriage. (2Cor.7:10)  It is always difficult to call sin by its proper name but, in charity, we must encourage the sinner who may be trapped in a situation of sexual cohabitation, of a same sex relationship or, of pornography addiction to look to Christ as their model and move towards a life of virtue (Jam.5:20).

In bearing witness to the teachings of Christ, we should be prepared to bear opposition patiently and, no doubt, we will suffer misunderstanding, abuse and even persecution for our witness to the Gospel of Life. (2Tim.2:10)  Whatever offences and injustices we experience we should, in imitation of Our Lord (Lk.23:34; Acts.7:60), forgive readily and willing.

The application of the teachings of Christ in regard to the corporal works of mercy may include contributing to or providing a safe refuge or home for women in a crisis pregnancy situation.  Equally, by visiting and praying outside places where pre-born children are killed is a work of mercy, regardless of the outcome.  Praying for the living and the dead includes those who, while living are spiritually dead. (Apoc.3:1) That is, we should pray for the conversion of those working in the industries that promote the Culture of Death.

In all of this, it must not be forgotten that Mercy is Love’s response to suffering and that the works of mercy demand more than a humanitarian basis if they are to serve as instruments in bringing about our eternal salvation.  For the works of mercy to be salvific for us, their animating spirit must belong to the supernatural order, that is, must be rooted in the love of God above all things.

May the Mother of mercy and Refuge of sinners intercede for us that we may in this Year of Mercy courageously live the message of the Gospel of Life more faithfully and fully for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. (Is.56:1)

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Building a culture of life with love

Imagine a culture where every human life was respected from his or her natural conception until their natural end.  Imagine how it would be if the natural family was upheld as the essential element of a stable society and the best protector of children.  Imagine the day when every person works in unity for the common good.

Today, in the name of freedom, so many are working against life, faith and family, and the culture of life that we work for seems so difficult to attain.

Just this week NZ Doctor revealed the results of their survey on euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Out of 110 respondents, 13 doctors admitted to having helped a patient to die.

Family Planning have been very busy promoting their sex education programmes at a Physical Education conference for teachers.  Sex education (otherwise known as sexuality education) is taught under the Health and Physical Education curriculum in New Zealand schools.  Teaching young people about how to obtain pleasure is now a fundamental aspect of their programmes.  This is taught alongside the concept of consent (which outside of marriage, is consent to use one another, and is the opposite of real love).

All around the world traditional marriage and the natural family is under attack as governments continue to redefine marriage and children are denied their fundamental right to a mum and a dad.

What must our response to the chaos be?

We have to respond with love and humility.  As we are taught in 1 Corinthians 13, that means with patience and kindness and it means always seeking the truth, even if that truth seems harsh.  Truth gives us real freedom to be the people that we were created to be.

We must pray for those who work to build a culture of death.  Many are misguided.  They really do believe that it is right to promote and participate in abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, sex education, the distribution of contraceptives and abortifacients.  We must pray for their conversion.

Bernard Nathanson, who performed over 60,000 abortions and was very much involved in the push for legalised abortion in the United States, had a change of heart, and ultimately a conversion to Catholicism, because people of faith prayed for him and treated him with dignity and respect.

All things are possible for those who have faith.

We can work tirelessly on our own steam, but those efforts, while producing some results, will never provide lasting fruitful change.  The only real lasting solution is a turning of hearts and minds to God – including our own.  As each of us conforms our own will to that of God’s perfect plan, then we will experience lasting peace and a culture that embraces life as a most precious gift to be respected and cherished from its beginning, and where the natural family is recognised as the fundamental cell of society.

There is hope.  All throughout New Zealand and the world, there are people faithfully living the Gospel of Life and witnessing to the hope that is within them.  From their continued faithfulness the culture of life will be realised.

 

Father Shenan Boquet: Building a culture of life

Father Shenan Boquet, President of Human Life International, recently addressed participants of the Auckland Eucharistic Convention on Building a Culture of Life.

In his presentation, Father Boquet speaks of the need to transform the culture.  Drawing on Scripture, he explains how God has given us building blocks to do this, saying:  “The building blocks that help us understand the language we speak begins in the family.”

“‘If you love me, you keep my commands’ (John 14:15).  And where does a child learn that?  Learns it from mum and dad.  Learns it when mum and dad are living that love.  Not only just for eachother, but the love for God.  The love of God’s teaching.  The dogmas and the doctrines and all the teachings that have been revealed to us through the Church, through revelation and how God is teaching us his commands.  And are we responding to them?”

Watch Father Boquet’s presentation to learn how and why we must work to build a culture of life, beginning in the family.

Father Shenan Boquet: Speaking a language of life and family

Father Shenan Boquet

Over the weeks of April 9th to 24th, it was our privilege to host Father Shenan Boquet, the President of Human Life International.

While here in New Zealand, Father Boquet gave a number of talks throughout the country.  The first of these was “Speaking a Language of Life and Family” at the Auckland Eucharistic Convention, held at Sacred Heart College.

“This thirst that God has for us, is from the fountain from which we draw the language he wants us to speak in this world.  This language of life and love.  This language of transformation.  This power that comes from this genuine source outside of ourselves.”  Father Boquet