A humane Work of Mercy
(Published in Munno Voice, Uganda on 10 January 2016, for Year of Mercy)
Counsel the doubtful is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy seen in the scriptures. As an act of mercy it intends to help people who need advice or spiritual suggestion at a time they find emotionally and spiritually disturbed or lost. In doing so a person who is spiritually and emotionally mature becomes a guide and helper who offers timely needed advice, guidance, direction or even caution and warning.
Counsel allows the advicee or directee to judge rightly what he or she should do in a particular circumstance. It goes beyond prudence, in allowing judgments to be made promptly. Counsel enables the person to see and choose correctly what will help him or her the most to assist to work for what is good, both for mind and soul.
To be a counsellor is to be like Jesus himself. Jesus was a great counsellor. He counselled by giving consolation, giving illumination, giving hope, giving advice, giving direction, and through many other humane interaction with people of different walks of life. All those who came in contact with him left transformed. In every encounter with people he was “merciful life the Father”.
Eight hundred years before Jesus was born, Isaiah titled the saviour as “Wonderful Counsellor”. The prophet envisaged a messiah who is ‘wonderful’ meaning incomprehensible and beyond imagination. Jesus demonstrated his wonderfulness through his birth, his preaching, his miraculous powers and more than that by his kindness and gentleness that were hallmark of his relationship.
Isaiah again uses this word again in 28:29 to describe the messiah: “This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.” Jesus is a wise counsellor. This is further stated by John in his gospel 2:25: “He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person”. He is able to advise His people thoroughly because He is qualified in ways no human counsellor is. In Christ is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), including the knowledge of all human nature (Psalm 139:1–2). Jesus always knows what we are going through, and He always knows the right course of action (Hebrews 4:15–16).
As Jesus listened and cared for people throughout the history of the church we have examples of numerous saints who loved and cared for people through their wise counsel and spiritual direction. We can remember St. John Bosco who counselled young people to holiness, St. Padre Pio who brought numerous people to God not many years ago, we remember St. Faustina who continues to counsel people through her writings on Divine Mercy, indeed they are many. Surely we cannot forget our Holy Father Pope Francis who in our own time counsels, advices, and directs not only Catholic Christians but the whole world. He counsels not only on spiritual matters but also on caring for environment, world peace and morals that the world is in much need of.
As human beings we go through moments of doubt, anxiety, confusion, uncertainty and fear. At these moments we look for clearance, guidance and much needed support for body, mind and soul. Often we find ourselves torn between options that are confusing and difficult to choose. We look for mature people who can help us out. Wise counsel will come from individuals who know the difference between:
- what is ultimately good and what is just currently popular,
- what is really valuable and what is just cheap,
- being happy and just having fun,
- what is beautiful and what just looks attractive,
- what is really a generous gift and what is a selfish gesture,
- what is true and what is just a matter of opinion,
- love and lust,
- what is worth fighting against and what one should run from,
- a real miracle and a magic trick,
- what is wise and what is foolish,
- what can last forever and what is only temporary,
- what is a divine blessing and what is a demonic temptation.
Life is all about choice. We need to make choices daily and every moment. Choices we make either make us or destroy us. We are not always able to make good choices by ourselves. We need wise guides who are spiritually mature, emotionally stronger and intellectually wiser. They could be our parents, teachers, priests and religious and elders who have gone through life. If only we are open and welcoming wise counsels are available for free. It is up to us to look for them, listen to them and benefit from them.