Monday Matters (September 21, 2015)


Awareness of mercy
The pope is coming to visit. I’m intrigued by the things he says, the people he chooses to meet, the places he decides to go. He seems to animate the mission of Jesus, as he comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable, so much so that some members of Congress have decided to bail on his speech. (I confess I wonder what better use of their time they will discover.) His travels fall during what he has described as a year of mercy. When I first heard about this year of mercy, announced in a homily last March, the snark in me surfaced. It reminded me of the Episcopal Church when we had a decade of evangelism, as if we do evangelism for a while and then next decade do something else. In the same way that I think that evangelism (i.e., sharing good news in word and action) is something we are called to do all the time, so I puzzled at a year would focus on mercy. Shouldn’t that always be part of the Christian life, or as the psalmist said, shouldn’t mercy endure forever?

But perhaps intentional attention to mercy is what we need right now in a world where mercy is in short supply. Shakespeare said that the quality of mercy is not strained, but he might want to hear what the Pope had to say on the subject:

The call of Jesus pushes each of us never to stop at the surface of things, especially when we are dealing with a person. We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house that welcomes all and refuses no one. Its doors remain wide open, so that those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness. The greater the sin, so much the greater must be the love that the Church expresses toward those who convert.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (cf. Lk 6:36)”

My very favorite prayer (at least this week) is the Great Thanksgiving, offered in Morning and Evening Prayer. It’s printed in the column on the left. For me, it sums up what it means to live a life of faith. In the midst of that prayer, we make this request: Give us such an awareness of your mercies that with truly thankful hearts, we may show forth your praise not only with our lips but with our lives.

Great stuff.

This Monday morning, pray for awareness of God’s mercy. You might get out pen and paper and answer the following questions, as a spiritual exercise. What are synonyms for mercy? Kindness, grace, generosity, forgiveness, forbearance, pity, compassion, love? Cut someone slack? Give someone a break? Let it go? Then ask: When have I experienced a sense of mercy, from God or others? Give thanks for that. Then think about one way you can show mercy to someone else today. Admit that there are ways that our church, and each one of us in the church, withhold mercy. Ask for help to stop doing that.

For many reasons, I’m grateful for the ministry of this Pope. I’m particularly grateful that this morning, he’s calling me to a season in which I become more aware of God’s mercies. May that season never end.

– Jay Sidebotham

When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
-Matthew 9
the reading chosen for the Feast of St. Matthew (which is today).

The General Thanksgiving
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you 
for our creation,
and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;  through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.


Jay SidebothamContact:

Rev. Jay Sidebotham
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