Counselling the doubtful – First Spiritual Work of Mercy
The Works of Mercy through the eyes of a biblical scholar
With the help of biblical scholar Carlo Miglietta, we are preparing for the meeting days starting on Monday 17 July 2023. Tomorrow the first friends will start arriving from Africa, exactly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Burkina Faso.
The first Work of Spiritual Mercy is “counselling the doubtful”
The biblical scholar points out to us that he who performs this work is similar to:
- God: “I bless the Lord who has given me counsel; even at night my heart instructs me” (Ps 15:7); “I will make you wise, I will show you the way to follow; with my eyes on you, I will give you counsel” (Ps 31:8); “You will guide me with your counsel and then receive me into your glory” (Ps 15:7); “To me belongeth counsel and good sense, I am the understanding, to me belongeth power” (Pr 8:14); “Thy word is truth” (Jn 17:17); “I counsel thee to buy from me gold purified by fire to become rich” (Rev 3:18).
- Jesus: “The spirit of the Lord will rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude” (Is 11:2); “The crowds were crowding around him to hear the word of God” (Lk 5:2); “Whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life” (Jn 5:24; 8:51); “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (Jn 15:3).
- Jacob: “They listened to me in confident expectation and kept silence to hear my counsel” (Ib 29:21).
The biblical scholar also reminds us that he who counsels the doubters hears the Word of God
Below some excerpts:
- “(Taste) will be filled with the spirit of intelligence, as rain will pour forth words of wisdom…He will direct his counsel and his knowledge, he will meditate on the mysteries of God. He will make the doctrine of his teaching shine…Many will praise his intelligence…The peoples will speak of his wisdom” (Sir 39:6-10).
- “How befits wisdom to the old, discernment and counsel to the honourable!” (Sir 25:5).
- “The wise man’s knowledge grows like a flood; his counsel is like a spring of life” (Sir 21:13).
- “Seek the advice of every wise person, and despise no good counsel” (Tob 4:18).
- “Listen to advice and accept correction, that you may be wise in the future” (Pr 19:20; 3:21).
- “The wise listen to counsel” (Pr 12:15).
- “Wisdom is found among those who take counsel” (Pr 13:10).
- “Often associate with a godly man, whom you know to be an observer of the commandments and whose soul is like your soul; if you stumble, he will know how to pity you” (Sir37:12).
The biblical scholar leaves us at the conclusion of this work with a provocation, a question: do we know how to be “fishers of men” (Mk 1:7), identifying those who advise the doubters and proclaiming to them the beatitude of mercy that reads “Blessed are the merciful” (Mt 5:7)?
Concern for the care of the soul
Spiritual Works of Mercy have always been thought of as a general rule that every Christian should put into practice. If it is true that man is composed of body and soul, the needs of the body also run parallel to those of the soul, and perhaps the latter are the ones that require greater attention because the soul is more important than the body.
Don Fabio Rosini, in his book ‘Only Love Creates’ explains this concept well: ‘what makes people suffer the most is not the body but the heart. It is not pain but non-sense. It is not death but loneliness. The Works of Spiritual Mercy deal with the heart, with non-sense, with loneliness’. The fact that over the years it has been assumed that the emergency is essentially and solely the satisfaction of material needs has generated entire de-spiritualised societies.
Counselling, gift of the Holy Spirit
Among the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is counselling, a gift that we all need in life. From an early age, the child always asks the same question, “why?” and parents, who play an important educational role, have the task of answering it.
Even as we grow up, we are not always able to find answers on our own; we need guides.
He who is about to give advice should first of all pray that he will be able to say the right words, at the right time, in the right way.
The gift of counselling alongside needs another gift of the Holy Spirit, that of prudence so that the doubter, instead of feeling relieved, does not feel judged.
Guided by humility, by patience, by tenderness, by understanding, we must offer a non-judgmental welcome, an openness that allows the other person to let us into his or her intimacy, not forgetting that the counsellor par excellence is the Holy Spirit.