How to Find Success in Our Failures

Have you ever admonished a sinner?

To do so means to reprove someone for doing what is against God’s Will. It is listed as one of the seven spiritual works of mercy which include:

  1. To Instruct the Ignorant
  2. To counsel the doubtful
  3. To admonish the sinner
  4. To bear wrongs patiently
  5. To forgive offences willingly
  6. To comfort the afflicted
  7. To pray for the living and the dead

These seven spiritual works of mercy go alongside the corporal works of mercy which are:

  1. Feed the hungry
  2. Give drink to the thirsty
  3. Shelter the homeless
  4. Visit the sick
  5. Visit prisoners
  6. Bury the dead
  7. Give alms to the poor

Of the works of mercy, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says the corporal works,

“Are found in the teachings of Jesus and give us a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise. They are charitable actions by which we help our neighbors in their bodily needs. They respond to the basic needs of humanity as we journey together through this life.”

Of the spiritual works of mercy the USCCB says,

“Just as Jesus attended to the spiritual well-being of those he ministered to, these spiritual works of mercy guide us to help our neighbor in their spiritual needs.”

All of these works of mercy call a disciple of Jesus Christ out of his or her comfort zone, but the one that is the riskiest, in my opinion, is that call to admonish the sinner. The other thirteen do not risk the ire of the recipient of the work as does this one.

There are gentle opportunities, such as reproving your child for being unkind or calming an irate friend and reminding him or her it is better to forgive than rant, but what about the times the Holy Spirit prompts you to sit someone down and let them know what they are doing is against God’s Will?


Christian Discipleship in Action

I recently had such an occasion. A dear one of my heart is a beautiful soul but in one area of life is not living up to the Christian way of being. When I was prompted during prayer to go and address the situation, I asked the Holy Spirit to speak through me as Isaiah 42:2-3 advises, so I do not, “Break the bruised reed” or “Quench the dimly burning wick.” The beautiful soul listened, nodded, and seemed to agree, but later I was told nothing would change for now.

Did I admonish wrongly? Did the Holy Spirit send me on a futile task?

We often think that when we act in charity through our Christian discipleship, we are the ones “doing for” God, but what we do not realize is that it is in these charitable acts God is also at work in us.

Before I was tempted to admonish God for sending me on a failed mission, I pondered not “why me” but rather “what are you doing here, Lord?” because I was confident I did what the Holy Spirit sent me to do. The realization came that two spiritual battles are being fought in this work of mercy, one for the good of that beautiful soul, and one for the good of me.

When I stated this in prayer to God, I heard in response,

“I am the one fighting both battles, you just the one.”

The purpose of the Christian life, I find, is less about our human actions and more about being the way God chooses to act in the world. When you are called to acts of charity in one or more of the works of mercy, consider yourself privileged, because you are as much a recipient of Divine Mercy as the one you are called to help, and this makes even our failures a success!

Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, and motherhood, as a writer, Missionary of Hope, Prayer Intercessor, Speaker Team member, and Volunteer for Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit

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