BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Matthew 5:7 (The Beatitudes) NIV
I am one of the many who use Facebook, one of the early social media websites. Aside from videos of cute pets, shots of new grand babies and birthday greetings, some of the Facebook posts on my news feed deal with faith. One of my Facebook friends posted a quotation from the Greek Orthodox theology professor and author, Father Anthony Coniaris, entitled “The Meaning of Kyrie Eleison.” That Greek phrase is translated into English as “Lord, Have Mercy” and is used in Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Episcopalian worship as a response or petition. We Methodists sometimes use that or a similar response in liturgies and begin our communion confessional prayer with the salutation, “Merciful God.” The root word in Greek, eleos, means olive oil - which Coniaris claims “was poured into wounds and massaged in, thus soothing, comforting, and making the injured part whole again. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleios and mercy is hesed, which means steadfast love.” Father Coniaris goes on to say that the phrase in a larger sense means: “Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love. Thus, mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal but to the infinite loving-kindness of God and His compassion for His suffering children.”
Back in 1740, Charles Wesley was making the same connections in the words of a hymn, “Depth of Mercy” now numbered 355 in our hymnal. During a session of Paul Henry’s Thinking About God Zoom class, his friend, Rev. Walter Edmonds, said that the hymn’s words were autobiographical, after some backsliding moments which Wesley himself experienced:
Depth of mercy! Can there be mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forbear, me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood his grace, long provoked him to his face,
Would not harken to his calls, grieved him by a thousand falls.
I my Master have denied, I afresh have crucified,
Oft profaned his hallowed name, put him to an open shame.
There for me the Savior stands,
shows his wounds and spreads his hands,
God is love! I know, I feel; Jesus weeps and loves me still.
Now incline me to repent, let me now my sins lament,
Now my foul revolt deplore, weep, believe, and sin no more.
Prayer: Lord, we begin the liturgical preparation for Easter tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday. May we come to you with hearts open to receive and give comfort. Help us to show mercy to others, as you have shown us. May we revive our faith, receive your loving kindness, and reflect your compassion to all. Kyrie Eleison! Amen.