It, in various forms, is one of the most often prayed prayers of the Christian tradition. It has been uttered in the face of trial, temptation, tragedy, and even triumph. Lord, have mercy. It has been voiced at childbirth and as death draws near. Lord, have mercy. It has been raised from the collective soul of humanity in the face of earthquakes and floods, landslides and hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis. Lord, have mercy. It has been intoned for self, for others, regarding daily needs, amid anger, sadness, suffering, and despair. Lord, have mercy.
It is found only a few places in the Christian Scriptures. We read it in Psalm 51, as the Psalmist implores God to blot out transgressions. Have mercy on me. We find it in Matthew when a woman approaches Jesus, seeking mercy for her daughter who is afflicted with a demon. Have mercy on me. It is the cry from the lips of a rich man in a parable found in Luke. Have mercy on me. And in both Mark and Luke, we hear it shouted from a blind man as he is told that Jesus approaches. Have mercy on me.
While each of these readings has value for our lives of faith, those which speak most directly to my heart are the stories of the blind man. The man has profound need. He has heard of Jesus, and when Jesus draws near, he cries out from the depths of his need. Others around him, however, don’t want him bothering Jesus. They find him a nuisance. They attempt to silence him. Jesus, they figure, does not have time for the needs of such a man.
But Jesus sees things differently. He silences those who have attempted to silence the one in need. He hears his cries for mercy. He invites the man into his presence, meets him at his place of need, and in that meeting, there is new life. Lord, have mercy.
Throughout my life, this has become a daily prayer. Sometimes hourly. Sometimes, even, moment by moment. I silently pray it as I drop my children off for school each day. Lord have mercy. It rises from my heart as I read the headlines of the news. Lord have mercy. It comes as naturally as breath when people tell me of their joys and their sorrows. Lord, have mercy.
Whatever is going in on your life these days, with your family, your friends, your classes, your activities, your work, amid whatever delights and distresses you experience, I invite you to join your voice with millions who have gone before you. As you read this at your desk or on your phone or by another mobile device, turn your thoughts toward the places where there is need – for yourself, for those you love, for this vast and complicated world – and pray this ancient, simple prayer. Lord, have mercy.
Then as your hours and days unfold, do it again, and again, and again. And Jesus will meet you at your place of need to bring you healing and new life.
Lord, have mercy. Let it be so. AMEN.
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.