Life Happens

 By Tom White

The demands of daily living, as we often encounter them,  call for precise planning and coordination if we are going to get anything done. Getting something done seems to be the benchmark of success in our world. It’s as if the measuring itself is the goal.

School, sports, siblings, nuclear family, church/faith, all imprinted on our early years in life. There comes a time when we take all the information of our growing years and we formulate it into our blueprint of life. We test it and perfect it, then live it and judge it. Ultimately we own it! It is our life and direction we control. Intrusion is not welcome.

Yet, there are voices speaking to our heart almost daily which are persistent and piercing.  These voices seem to be the loudest just when we think our lives could not be better. They work to distract us from that feeling of satisfaction that all is well with the world.

We’ve all seen or heard the call for helping those in need. In Kansas City, it’s the barrel in the store for collecting food for Harvesters, the radio ad for City Union Mission’s offer of shelter,,  or the Holy Family bulletin announcements to share food with Catholic Worker House,, and St. James Place,, our own parish appeals for winter coats or socks, the requested donations of bottled water for disaster relief, and the plight of others as told in the stories of The Giving Tree families. But these are only a few of the voices crying out asking to be shown mercy.

These are cries for food, clothing, drink and shelter, the corporal needs of mercy. Did someone’s plan fail? Did the measurement of success not calculate properly? Did someone just not plan at all? Did they, whomever they might be, just not focus on what is important? Or did life just happen?


Our sacred texts, our Scripture, when recounting the life of Jesus, have embedded in them the call for mercy without judgment. Life may throw us a curve at any moment. Losing a job, a spouse, a child, a home, a marriage, our health, are events that we ever really plan. There are simply no algorithms for this kind of “long range planning.”

But there is great and deeply felt peace found in being generous with our gifts when we have them. By doing so, we are able to show mercy to those in need, and in turn so that others may be merciful to us when we are in need. The spontaneous love of our neighbor is God’s plan.

Does our plan really matter when there is just not enough money for both utilities and groceries this week, or for both medicine and warm clothes today? How about our plan when we learn our spouse has terminal cancer or when we must sit vigil at the bedside of a dying child or parent? This is not our plan, life just happened.

When we respond to the voices speaking to us daily in their persistent and piercing tones we find Jesus’ message to be clear: Show mercy without judgement and our hearts will be comforted in the same way. We will feel an amazing peace because a true and blest life just happens that way in the Corporal Works of Mercy.



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