As a cantor for more than 25 years for Sunday liturgies, funeral liturgies and weddings, I have become so much more aware in this Year of Mercy of how many of the songs we sing are about the mercy that God has for me and for all of us.
Through these songs, we are given the revelation and the understanding that it is we who are the ones who are to show and share God’s mercy throughout the world.
One of my most favorite songs to sing, whether it be for a wedding or in my daily prayer, is Psalm 103, “The Lord is Kind and Merciful” by Jeanne Cotter:
Refrain: The Lord is kind and merciful; the Lord is kind and merciful. Slow to anger, rich in kindness, the Lord is kind and merciful.
Vs. 1: Bless the Lord, O my soul; all my being bless God’s name. Bless the Lord, O my soul; forget not all God’s blessings.
Vs. 2: The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, full of kindness. God is good to all creation, full of compassion.
Vs. 3: The goodness of God is from age to age, blessing those who choose to love. And justice toward God’s children; on all who keep the covenant.
This version of the Psalm is so peaceful, so prayerful, and the union of voices in varied parts reminds me of the many peoples throughout the world praying this same prayer in thanksgiving to God.
My understanding is that mercy is always about love. Mercy is about forgiveness, grace, compassion, understanding, kindness, justice, patience, being gracious, being blessed. Mercy is not about jealousy, nor proudness, nor anger. Mercy is about opening our hearts completely and showing and sharing all of these gifts with our self but most especially with others.
God pardons all our faults, our weaknesses, our struggles. Shouldn’t we also do the same for others?
Unfortunately, we live in a world where it is very easy to find fault and oh so difficult to show mercy to others. Every day we read or hear about situations where someone acted in revenge as an opportunity to get back, to punish, to judge all the wrongdoings and mistakes we might have committed and most especially what our neighbor might have done.
Can you imagine how the world would look if we allowed God’s mercy and love to cover us like the leaves falling from the trees? The trees don’t choose whom they drop their bright red, orange or yellow leaves onto while they are trying to show all their glory to God their Creator. Instead, they reach out with their branches to the bright and beautiful heavens, and let their “mercy and love” bless the shoulder of someone passing under them or fall in great armloads of joy on the lawns of their family home.
David Ruis captured this vision of mercy for me in another favorite song — “Mercy is Falling” — that I have led hundreds of youth in singing and praying together throughout the years:
Mercy is falling is falling is falling-
Mercy is falling all over me-
Mercy is falling is falling all over me and you and us and them-
Why can’t we be more like the leaves falling? Why can’t we be more about love, always about love?
Imagine yourself as one of those beautiful leaves falling in mercy into the hearts and lives of those who have caused you pain, anger or hurt. Let your mercy fall all over me and you and us and all. Mercy can change the world one leaf at a time.
Elizabeth Neville is director of the St. Cloud Mission Office, 11-8th Ave., South, St. Cloud.