Crying Out for Mercy
Dear Fr. Zagloba,
At Mass Sunday, something struck me with a force of a blow. Kyrie Eleison. Lord, have mercy. I have never thought about this before because I’m not a Greek scholar, but eleison comes from the same Greek word as eleemosyne, the word that means alms. The word eleison is used in the Gospel passage when blind Bartimaeus is calling to the Lord for mercy.
The Holy Mass puts the words of a beggar in our mouths at the very beginning of every celebration. Lord, have mercy. We are blind, wretched, in need of alms, of mercy. And so I cry out, “Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.”
We are all beggars before Christ
How humbling it is to recognize our position before God! Beggars! We’re all beggars crying out, “Lord, have mercy!” when we hear that He is near. And His response… He draws close to us. In scripture and in sacramental sign, He becomes present to us, finding fulfillment in a perfect and complete gift of Himself – communion.
We don’t deserve it. We haven’t earned it. We can’t repay Him. He opens our eyes to His merciful love and grants us our hearts desire. Eternal life and perpetual beatitude.
This is what it means to be poor in spirit. To recognize our need for mercy, for the Merciful One. To beg without shame. To cry out at the top of our lungs, LORD HAVE MERCY, even when the surrounding crowds and the disciples tell us to be silent. To recognize that our need for mercy is greater than our need for approval, or recognition, or honor. To become aware of our poverty and our need for our Savior.
Alms are incarnate mercy
When we’re fundraising and asking people to support the ministries of the Church, we are entering into this mystery. We become the voice of the voiceless. Or to use an even more powerful image, we’re like the four fellows who lowered their paralyzed friend into the home where Jesus could demonstrate His healing power.
I think many people know their need for mercy, but don’t know the Lord of Mercy. This is where we come in. As fundraisers, we are asking for alms, for mercy, on their behalf. Those alms enable mercy that you can touch, taste, and see. Churches feed the spiritual needs of the poor in spirit. Hospitals minister to the physically sick. Food pantries fill empty tummies.
Mercy is not abstract. A simple absence of punishment deserved. Mercy is incarnational. It enters into the lives of the poor and meets their immediate needs. The story of the good Samaritan illustrates the concreteness of mercy in such a vivid way. Mercy means stopping what we’re doing, getting off our donkeys, and doing something to help the bloody and beaten man lying beside the road.
Solidarity with the poor
Kyrie eleison. I am a beggar. This means I stand with other beggars, not above them. I am one of their number. This is the heart of solidarity with the poor. Once I recognize that all are beggars before God, I can begin to treat everyone I meet like a long-lost brother or sister. This is the foundation of charity.
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