When we ask almighty God to give us an increase of faith, hope and charity, we are not asking Him to confirm us in what we feel is right, or to approve the decisions we’ve already made and the actions we’ve already carried out. Instead, we’re admitting that we fail in faith; that our hopes are often wrong-headed; and that our love is self-serving.
So our prayer admits
- that we too often take matters into our own hands without patiently trusting the Lord to be our defense;
- that our hopes and desires are usually set on gratifying our passions and what we believe is fair;
- and that love for others—especially those who hurt us or those who hate us—our love for them is very often overcome by anger and revulsion.
And so we pray—precisely because we do not love deep down what our Lord commands. And yet we know that, apart from His bottomless mercy, we will not obtain the inheritance, the kingdom, the life He promises us.
And we pray—because we give into hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, and envy. And yet we sincerely and earnestly want to partake of the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
And we pray—because by fulfilling the lusts of our flesh, we have sinned against the Spirit and walked our own walk, and not according to the His talk. And yet we know that our only passion should be for Our Lord, and for those whom He loves. And this passion is true only as we internalize His commands about our bodies, our minds, our will, our spirit.
All Our Lord’s commands are rooted in His love for us. For this reason, our prayer must always be, “Lord have mercy.”
Those three words must always be at the heart of every prayer—no matter how many words we use, no matter how much we struggle, no matter how hard it is to live the Lord’s mercy toward others. ‘Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy’ must be our constant prayer. For if the Lord does not have mercy, then faith, hope and love vanish.
So it is the Lord’s mercy we seek when we pray.
- A mercy that deals with us not as we deserve;
- A mercy that squelches our anger and meanness;
- A mercy that gives birth to true brotherly love;
- A mercy that betters us;
- And most of all, a mercy that gives us an increase of faith, hope and love.
Every Mass begins with “Kyrie eleison” because we are so dependent on God’s mercy. And every Mass is immersed in, and petitions the Lord to have mercy upon us. For if the Lord does not have mercy, then we are lost and the whole world ceases. But with the Lord’s mercy, there is abundant redemption and plentiful forgiveness; and in His mercy He drags us out of the pit we have dug.
Too often, however, we say, “Lord, have mercy” taking for granted His love. Or we say, “Lord, have mercy” not as a prayer, but as if we were snapping our fingers at a waiter. Or we say, “Lord, have mercy” with no understanding of what He asks of us—to live not by our will, but in His love; and to do not what we think is best, but to trust the commands He gives.
But most of all, we say, “Lord, have mercy” with little thought, and little desire, to thank Him. And too often we receive Our Lord’s mercy not as a gift, but as something we deserve. And then we forget that the Lord’s mercy is not cheap. His mercy is not like ours—a compassion half-heartedly, sometimes grudgingly given.
The Lord’s mercy cost Him the life of His Son. And you know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
Yet here is what is best—even our ingratitude; even our disrespect; even our abuse of the Lord’s costly mercy does not stop His mercy, or turn Him against us. And He does not undo what He mercifully did. Just ask anyone who lives under the mercy of God’s rain and sunshine; or anyone who still breathes. Or, better yet, ask the nine lepers who did not return. Their discourteous thanklessness did not bring back their leprosy; they were still healed. So even they, in their foolish self-centeredness—even they tasted the Lord’s mercy, although they did not savor it.
But when we return again and again in praise and thanksgiving; when we sacrifice our notions, our passions and our ambitions; when we offer the Lord all we are and all we have in appreciation for the mercy He gives: then we receive from the Lord
- not just mercy but also His blessing;
- not just goods for the body but also goods for the soul;
- not just the things that make for this life, but also the things that usher us safely into the Kingdom of heaven.
Ask the one leper who returns. This Samaritan cares less about being certified “clean” and returning to his family, and more about worshiping the Lord Jesus who healed him. He thinks less of what people think of him, and more of what the Lord gives Him. So he returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks.
There, by that humble act, you see the Holy Spirit at work. There, you see a man who swallows his pride; who acknowledges his unworthiness; who confesses that he is undeserving of any gift from God. And there you see a person who not only appreciates, but also begins to live from the mercy he has received.
For living in the Lord’s mercy begins not by doing for others, but by receiving more and more from the Lord’s hand.
And living in the Lord’s mercy moves forward as you sacrifice yourself—and especially your sense of right and wrong—to partake in what is not rightfully yours.
And living in the Lord’s mercy is grounded in a straight-forward, no excuses confession
- that you are no better than anyone else;
- that the Lord should not deal kindly with you;
- that you are the chief of sinners;
- and that you cannot live another moment apart from the love, the forgiveness, the compassion, the strength, and the mercy that Our Lord Jesus is and gives.
As you take to heart the Lord’s mercy; as you receive it not just as an idea but as your life—then His Spirit will work in you
- so that you are merciful just as your heavenly Father has been merciful to you;
- so that you lay aside all grudges, all notions of revenge, all hatred, all ill-speaking;
- and so that you live not to gratify your lusts and desires, but to walk in the Spirit with the saints, in true thanksgiving, toward His kingdom, which is your ultimate goal.
Despite our many short-comings, may the Lord continue His mercy to us, within us, and among us. And may we, as His children and heirs of His mercy, live for Him by living mercifully with each other, with all whom we meet, and especially toward those who don’t measure up to our ideal, and who hurt us or hate us.