“Both the natural and the divine positive law impose a strict duty on us to carry out the works of mercy. Whilst the natural law requirement is based upon the principle that we are to do to others as we would have them do to us (Mt.7:12), the positive divine law comes from Christ under the supreme penalty of eternal damnation (Mt.25:41). The corporal works were each directly and explicitly stated by Christ. The spiritual works, however, are all implied in scripture and deal with a distress whose relief is of even greater imperative as well as more effective for the grand purpose of our creation, which is, eternal life.
The intrinsic character of both the spiritual and corporal works reveals that ‘we are our brother’s keeper’. (Eph.4:25) In the case of the spiritual works, Christ enjoins fraternal correction (Mt.18:15) as well as the forgiveness of injuries (Mt.6:14). A certain degree of tact and prudence is required in fulfilling the first four of the spiritual works as each case depends largely on the degree of distress to be aided, and the competency or condition of the one to whom the responsibility falls. (Col.4:6) However, the last three, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offences willingly and to pray for the living and the dead, are within the reach of all and, consequently, one may not dispense oneself on the plea that one lacks some special array of gifts required for their observance”.