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Works of Mercy

Faith and Works

Many people have trouble understanding the Catholic theology of "works." Protestants have long claimed that faith alone is necessary because Jesus is the Redeemer, the Savior of the world. While Catholics have always accepted and taught the importance of faith, but have also emphasized the importance doing  works of faith.  Ecumenical conferences and documents have focused on a clear understanding of where the differences are and where there are similarities between Catholics and other eccessial communities. How different are we on paper and how different or similar are we in the practice of our Christian life?  This page will not explore the depths of the topic but simply set the context for why Catholic do what they do.

Faith in Christ is crucial for salvation for those who have had the Gospel announced to them. Their free will allows them to choose Christ or reject him. But for those who have never been introduced to Christ, we believe God is still merciful to them. God is Mercy. We do not believe in eternal damnation for people who had no opportunity to choose Christ because no one ever preached Christ to them. 

The story is different for Christians no matter what community they claim as their own.  But faith alone is inconceivable for a true disciple of Christ. Faith automatically leads us to loving action in the name of Christ, for God is love. We do not set limits upon love, or at least we try not do set limits on love. We are joined to the mission of Christ to spread the Good News of the Gospel by preaching, teaching and by living in, with and through Christ. As Saint Paul said, we put on Christ.

Faith is expressed in action. This led to the development of the Catholic concept of the Spiritual Works of Mercy as well as the Corporal Works of Mercy. We feed the soul and the body. This has been the impetus behind so much of what Catholics do. Traditionally, the list has included seven works of mercy in each category even though the words or descriptions are different depending on the translation or publisher. 

More from the USCCB about Works of Mercy



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