This reflection was written for the CatholicCare Sydney staff newsletter for February 2016. In it I draw on Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2016 stressing his call to cultivate silence in order to listen to the Word of God, and to renew our practice of the works of mercy.
Do Two Things for Lent
Catholics often talk about what we might “give up for Lent.” This year Pope Francis has asked us to do two things as we prepare for Easter. He invites us to cultivate stillness and silence in order to be able to hear the word of God to us, and to renew our practice of the works of mercy.
Stillness & Silence
Social service organizations can be hectic places, dealing with immediate human needs and fast-moving policy debates. It can be difficult to make – and to take – time to be still and quiet and reflect. Reflective practices support our person-centred approach. We need time and space to notice what is happening within ourselves as we go about our work, and what is really happening for the people whom we serve. What is God saying to us through these movements within ourselves and in our world?
Can we make a habit of taking fifteen minutes to have a coffee break somewhere quietly on our own to reflect?
Works of Mercy
The Catholic tradition speaks of two kinds of works of mercy – corporal and spiritual – which Pope Francis reminds us need to be kept together. In the same way, our person-centred approach is holistic, encompassing the physical, material, spiritual and emotional needs of persons, families and communities. The corporal works of mercy are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. The spiritual works of mercy are to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant (share knowledge, teach skills), admonish sinners (help people to leave negative and destructive paths), comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear wrongs patiently, and to pray for the living and the dead.
How might our work reflect God’s merciful love in these ways?