The first of the spiritual works of mercy is “Instruct the Ignorant.” We sometimes think that it is an insult to say that someone is ignorant, but in reality, it simply means that the person is without knowledge — of something that they would benefit from knowing. To give knowledge — to give someone the Truth, who is Jesus Christ — is a great work of mercy because it is to give the greatest gift of all: knowledge that will help that person on their journey to eternal life in Christ Jesus.
Are there practical ways in which we can fulfill this spiritual work of mercy? We could start by thinking of teaching the truth about God, about Christ, about morality and spiritual realities to our children — and any other children who are in our sphere of influence. One of the best teachers that I had as a young child was a public school teacher, Miss Bauer, who had been a religious sister before her order went crazy. She never married, kept to her special gift of teaching, but did it in a public school context. Yet she taught us, in quiet and unassuming ways, about things that really mattered. [There is no danger of Miss Bauer getting in trouble with the government for violating the phony “Separation of Church and State” — she’s been with the Lord for many years now.] In what ways can we share the greatest gift, our faith in Jesus Christ, with the next generation? How about a CCD class, or a children’s Bible study, or working with a Junior Legion of Mary?
Are there ways in which we can instruct the ignorant by reaching out to adults who do not have a good grasp of the Faith? We have several generations of uncatechized (or only lightly catechized) adults in our country today. Could we help out with an RCIA class, a Bible study, teaching (or co-teaching) a class on some subject related to the Faith that we are well-versed in? Could we reach out to adults through lay apostolate in the Legion of Mary or some other organized apostolic effort? How about getting involved with a high school youth group or university outreach through the local Newman Center?
Every Catholic who is in any way trying to authentically live their Faith is going to have people ask questions: why do you do this? What does the Church teach about that? Studying our Faith so that we can give answers — being ready to, as St. Peter said, “Give reasons for the hope that is within you” is important, so that we can give good answers, or at least know where to look so that we can come back to the person with good answers to their questions.
Many people today are ignorant of the most basic truths of our Catholic (Christian) Faith, are we ready and willing to “Instruct the Ignorant” and share the gift of our Faith and relationship with Jesus with them? Now is a good time for us to begin!