"While joys and grace abound, life is also hard. We all need to help and be helped as we struggle on. The great novelist Henry James has his characters ask their friends in moments of stress, 'Will you see me through?' – through illness, betrayal, or the task of overcoming evil. So, too, all of us who attempt to lead a Christian life need others to see us through: The spiritual works of mercy are ways that we do this for one another. All such psychological efforts require energy. God makes such expenditures of energy possible, and occasionally even easy to do, but often we have to work against our natural inertia and laziness. It is so much easier not to get involved: the slang expression 'Who needs it?' sums up our natural resistance to becoming enmeshed with others when we would just as soon retreat.

"Listening to the Church's demand for love and works of mercy spurs us on. Within the tradition of the Church the range of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy serves as a corrective to our penchant for designing a narrower Christian life. Just as the unexpected joys, opportunities, and sufferings that come our way push us in undreamed of directions, so the breadth of the works of mercy challenges us to expand and expend ourselves. All of these different ways of expressing charity will challenge us at different times and in different situations. Naturally, some actions will be more difficult for us than others; the great struggle in the self's interaction with others is getting things into balance and proportion.

"In fact, if one type of action is too easy for us we might be suspicious of our motivation. Am I always, for example, too eager to admonish the sinner, or too ready to weep with the bereaved? Or is it always easier for me to bear wrongs patiently than risk conflict by admonishing the sinner? In God, justice and mercy are joined, but we find it difficult to discern ways to practice both. None of the spiritual acts of mercy come with ready-made patterns to follow."