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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Jesus Prayer
The Jesus Prayer

Mercy Ever-Present 

Friday, June 7, 2024

As you breathe out, say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” 
—St. Symeon the New Theologian 

James Finley describes the boundless nature of God’s mercy:  

What does it mean to ask Jesus Christ to have mercy on me? It’s to ask God to have mercy on me in the waywardness of my ways. I know by my own actions that I’m not true to the person I really am called to be. I know this in my weakness, so I ask Christ to have mercy on me. At the very heart of this prayer is the heart of Jesus because God is love, and when love touches suffering, the suffering turns love into mercy. Jesus is like a field of boundless mercy…. There’s an infinite love within us that we can in no way whatsoever increase—because it’s infinite. God is infinitely in love with us. But just as we can’t increase it, we can’t threaten it either. We’re an infinitely loved, broken person. In acceptance of the brokenness, the infinity of the love that shines through the brokenness gets brighter and brighter.  

There’s a moral imperative to do our best not to continue with things that are hurtful to ourselves and others. You have your list, and I have mine. That’s important. But grounded in us is in an inner peace that is not dependent on the ability to overcome the hurtful thing. St. Paul had a thorn in the flesh and asked God to remove it, but God said, “Leave it there” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). The thorn is the teacher, the place where it isn’t looking good, if this is all up to you. But it’s not up to you. It’s up to God giving Godself to you as infinitely lovable in your brokenness and incompleteness. This is experiential salvation. [1] 

CAC faculty emerita Cynthia Bourgeault illustrates God’s ever-present mercy:  

The story comes to mind of the little fish swimming up to its mother, all in a panic: “Mama, Mama, what’s water? I gotta find water or I’ll die!” We live immersed in this water, and the reason we miss it is not that it is so far away but, paradoxically, so close: more intimate to us than our being itself.…  [Mercy] is the water in which we swim. Mercy is the length and breadth and height and depth of what we know of God—and the light by which we know it.…  

The mercy of God does not come and go, granted to some and refused to others. Why? Because it is unconditional—always there, underlying everything. It is literally the force that holds everything in existence, the gravitational field in which we live and move and have our being.… Mercy is God’s innermost being turned outward to sustain the visible and created world in unbreakable love. [2]  

[1] Adapted from James Finley and Kirsten Oates, “The Way of a Pilgrim: Session 3,” Turning to the Mystics, season 9, ep. 6 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2024), podcast. Available as MP3 audio download and PDF transcript. 

[2] Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2001), 20, 25. 

Image credit and inspiration: Vlad Bagacian, woman sitting on a grey cliff (detail), 2018, photo, Romania, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. Prayer is a practice for the long road of life, remembering that we are accompanied even when we feel alone. 

Story from Our Community:  

Recently, at a prayer breakfast, I saw a little girl who wore a sleeveless dress, obviously uncomfortable in the large, air-conditioned room. As I watched the child, I had the instinct to offer her my own shawl. For whatever reason, I held back my impulse. After reading the meditations from the first week of May on Simplicity, I realized I missed an opportunity to share a simple act of kindness. I pray for heightened awareness in the future, so that I can share kind impulses more freely and openly. 
—Marilyn N. 

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