Mercy has always been an interesting word for me. In the past I've most often connected mercy to judgment; God, as a merciful judge, alleviates our punishment when we cry out for mercy. In the parable of the ungrateful servant, (Matthew 18) the man who owes the king a lifetime of wages is shown mercy, and his debt is forgiven.
Further study taught me that mercy is connected to the Hebrew word hesed which is commonly translated as lovingkindness. A familiar example would be the ending of Psalm 23 where David concludes his poem on the Lord as Shepherd with this refrain:
Surely, goodness and mercy (lovingkindness)
will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
But recently, I've come to think of mercy as a simple cry for help. This is the case for the blind beggar in the Gospel reading yesterday. Feeling hopeless to enact any sort of change in his situation, he approaches Jesus with a full-bellied cry for assistance. "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me," he cries. And Jesus does.
It's this third understanding of mercy that I'm leaning on as much of the east coast sits waiting for the landfall of hurricane Sandy, a monstrous storm beyond our ability to affect. "Lord, have mercy," I pray.
Help those who are preparing for the damage which this storm will afflict. Help those who are committed to public safety and health to themselves be kept safe and healthy. Help us to make wise choices in our travel. Stop those who would want to take advantage of the chaos that often ensues in such situations. And most of all, show your mercy by stilling the winds and moving the storm along.
Will you join me in this prayer? Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.