1. Feed the hungry–it counters gluttony, because how can you be a glutton yourself when you see others who are really and truly hungry? It’s not possible. 2. Envy is a kind of endless thirst for other stuff that can’t be satisfied. When you give drink to the thirsty you meditate on what ‘I thirst’ really means and your envy is cured. 3. Clothing the naked helps with lust. How can you lust after naked people when you see that nakedness is actually a form of not only immodesty but poverty. You can’t lust after a person who needs clothing. 4. Are you slothful? Shelter the homeless. Seeing a person with no place to rest his head and helping him find a place to sleep for the night will cure you of your laziness and complacency. 5. Visit the sick to counter pride. When you see a sick person you see someone who has been humbled by poor health and your compassion for them might just humble you too. 6. What is wrath? It is anger, rage, fear and frustration. In prison you will see many people locked into these behaviors and locked up because of these behaviors. When you visit them the roots of your wrath will be pulled out. 7. Finally do you want to be cured of greed? Do you want to get your priorities right? Go to a funeral. Bury the dead. They don’t put pockets in shrouds.
The great thing about this solution is that it is oblique. In other words, it is not attacking the seven deadlies head on. Instead it sort of sneaks up on them from behind. It is also a positive solution rather than a negative one. Just trying hard to stop doing a bad thing is a negative solution. It’s just stopping the bad thing. This is a positive solution: it’s doing a good thing.
If this is all true, then the corporal acts of mercy not only help other people–they help us even more.