Tag Archives: mercy

Eleison

So I skipped over the “Kyrie” and did not even notice until I was trying to contextualize the “Gloria“. Part of the reason for that I suppose is the way I grew up seeing it as part of the penitential rite, because it is tacked onto the end of it and at times you don’t “have to” have the Kyrie if it is embedded in the way the rite is worded (with the “Lord have mercy..,.Christ have mercy” used as a refrain within the list of things we are sorry for. So then when viewed that way the “have mercy” sounds like a plea to not punish us…or not too much…like a plea for forgiveness or clemency out of a knowledge of sinfulness. Or at any rate that was how I read it as a child.

And then of course the Kyrie is inherently problematic to me as I try to avoid “kyriearchal” thought and language and a cringing relationship with God. But when I have worked with liturgy I have been able to change the words to “Sophia eleison, Christe eleison” (Wisdom have mercy, Christ have mercy) to dispense with the Kyriearchy.

But is “have mercy” problematical too? What are we really asking? Is it a cringing in our sinfulness and awareness of a basic dirty worthlessness? It has been used that way. Or is it a request to be “saved” or rescued, a sort of damsel-in-distress positioning toward God the shiny saviour? How do we ask for liberation but not for rescue? It seems to me to be a fine line.

Then I wonder if I need to be more actively involved in this idea of “mercy” and I think back to my time in schools, two schools in the “mercy” tradition and their motto “Loyal en tout”. Loyal in everything. But loyal how and to what or whom?

And we deconstructed ideas of “mercy” at school and talked about how individual acts of “mercy” were only a start but social action was also needed to get rid of injustice instead of always just seeking a bigger bandaid to put over the hurts of this world. So “Sophia inspire justice, Christ teach liberation” becomes the intent of my cry in my heart. How do we deconstruct the injustices inherent in the system and how do we come to shared understandings that are more just and inclusive (and then again more just and more inclusive and again…as humans always having to renegotiate, never having found the silver bullet against all social ills).

But then can we sit back and ask God the holy ATM to dispense us parcels of this mercy or inspiration? Or is the cry more complex?

“Sophia show me how to be more merciful to myself

Christ teach me to extend a respectful merciful hand to others

Sophia integrate me with the earth’s mercy in more reciprocal ways.”

I met an atheist today, who seems to do my instinct what I need God and faith to inspire and teach in me. I see a lot of ethical atheists who honestly I can see have little or no need of religion, they seem to have an instinct for goodness and justice and I wonder why I do not have that. Why do I need God to call and motivate me out of my basic meaninglessness and lack of “good” action. If I did not believe I would not follow, I would just eat, drink and try to enjoy my time on earth and not worry about injustices too big for me to handle on my own.

But other people have a more evolved humanity than me and seem to do so much good without “believing”. So then my cry from the heart is,

“God give me meaning

Wisdom teach me to instinctively live love

Love go more deep in me than my overthinking”

because my ethical framework is still so deeply rooted in an understanding of being loved and accepted and called by God who is “other” to me, I have not fully integrated my ethics in myself. I am not fully independent and I admiringly wonder at people who can spontaneously find that within.

But let’s say at the end of the day that I can let go of “believing” in an other consciousness that is bigger and better and more loving than me and just do what is right and just for no real reason, just as an expression of my true being. Would I do that? Would I make my “goodness” my own if it meant losing the sense of being loved externally? I think of the loneliness I felt as a child and a young woman, my inability to access the imperfect love of other people or to respond or initiate love (and still I really struggle to express affection and affirmation towards others). Maybe I would not chose to isolate myself from the one ongoing relationship that has allowed me to dance back to other people I had alienated at various times.

There is something of the romantic in me after all, I crave intimacy and the acceptance of an “other”. My gratefulness when anyone likes me, wants my company or sees my worth is grounded in my growing reliance that God always likes, wants and sees me. There are bigger reserves of “goodness” accessible to me than my own. Perhaps the “good” atheists are also wrapped in this GOD that they don’t have to see or articulate (I would not try to tell them so).

God’s love is more than “mercy” it is grace and gift and growth.

P.S. I woke up in the middle of the night, knowing I hadn’t completely got it right. Trying to reduce faith to a dyad (God and me) is an indication of my own attempt to deal with being single for so long but it’s inappropriate to put that on God and anthropomorphise God in the process. That is, maybe it is Ok to get through day to day in this way but as an insight it isn’t really the whole picture. I lay there and remembered that I was linked in with refugees, and people trying to survive on centrelink; with old flames and elderly relatives; with fundamentalists who fear for my soul and rainbow youth who crave acceptance. With a little kitten who needs his litterbox changed and with the spiders, slaters and millipedes my preschoolers are obsessed with finding. With hurricanes and stars and sudden changes in weather.

To ask God to respond with “mercy” authentically, to attempt to be caught up in the act of “mercy” is to want to transform it for all of us- not just for me. I felt the very real fear of the way society seems to be descending into more and more injustice as we begin to face the consequences of not looking after the environment.

And then “have mercy” , also “may we have mercy” was a more fear-filled cry at three in the morning. And still asking for grace and gift and growth, but quickly and for all of us and in the knowledge that I would have to try harder to get caught up actively in bringing these things to myself and others.

What do we mean when we ask for “mercy”?

I am (re)writing my article and job seeking and putting together a liturgy for a few weeks’ time so no proper reflection this week. I am sort of sorry but also conscious that probably noone will miss it. But I will share here a prayer I wrote.

As part of putting together the afore-mentioned liturgy I was reading through reams of “penitential rites” full of “Lord have mercy” (sometimes in Latin “Kyrie eleison”) and not feeling ok about how glibly even feminists take on Kyriearchal language (or at least accept it so long as it is in a dead language).

Even though in my liturgy my theme for reconciliation will be Reconciliation (as in the unfinished business colonial Australia has with the real owners of this land) I wrote an alternative that I may use another time to help me reject the idea that kyriearchy is needed for repentance (which means turning around) and transformation.

I also reflected on the idea of “mercy”. What do we mean when we ask God/Jesus?Wisdom to “have mercy” on us. Are we still invoking those interpretive traditions where God wants to punish us for our sins unless we grovel? Or where God will “save” us from anything unpleasant? So I wondered how to put into words what we might mean by “have mercy” when I feel that the point of a penitential rite is to reconnect ourselves to a more positive relationship with God (as manifest in our lives and relationships with ourselves, others and the earth).

So here is my imperfect attempt, which I may or may not use or improve further down the track.

 

For making you our “Father” so that we might hide behind the helplessness of a child,

for making you our “Lord” so that we might put down ourselves and others in your name,

for expecting you to lead us into battle when you came offering peace:

we are truly sorry.

 

For the anxieties and mistrust that stop us living more genuinely,

for the despair and retreat that stifle our response to your call,

for the profound loneliness of a life focussed on comfort and privilege:

we ask healing and transformation

 

For the days of our life yet unlived,

for our suffering brothers and sisters that call out for us to join our voices and hearts to theirs,

for the good news that has not yet opened every heart:

we promise to enter more deeply when you invite us.

 

Loving God we accept your healing and your call

as we know you accept our good intentions and our love. Amen.

Stef Rozitis 2016

Give justice, rescue, do likewise

Plumb lines are for measuring depth. I am afraid the depth of my commitment to this reading may not be worth plumbing considering the rape culture in verse 17. Sure we are supposed to look beyond it, as women we are always meant to blink at the alienating and the outright creepy and defend the honour of the patriarchal text. But just as Amos cannot get away from who he really is (a herdsman and a dresser of trees) I am really a woman and a feminist and I cannot too whole-heartedly jump on board a text that talks about a man being punished through sexual dishonour and servitude for his wife and violent death for his children.Especially when this is a punishement threatened by a tantruming, petulant God.

God, in all honestly I expect better behaviour than that for you, and I will be ready to listen to you when you come back with a reasonable attitude instead of threats and abuse toward others. Let’s see if there is something in the other readings…

God’s “judgement” in the psalm is more to the point. We are called out of our own inappropriate behaviours and unfair dealings with others (fair enough God, that’s a valid criticism).

“Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” God is calling us to get political again, because rescuing the weak and needy is more than personal morality or niceness. Our transformative attitude needs a sweeping focus, it is not enough (herdsmen and dressers of trees) to hide behind our ordinary life, our ordinary skills and our small sphere of influence. And if society is hard to change it is because:
“They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness;”

So it seems that we have a responsibility always to do what we can, to speak the truth and to try to change the way people think towards (once again) God’s interests.

My inbox is full of Richard di Natale thanking me as part of the team that worked so ahrd in the lead-up to the election. This is how Paul comes across in Colossians. By recognition and thanks toward one of the communities, the distant Paul is brought closer to the community and the community is affirmed in their work and their identity, encouraged to persist when at times it surely must be hard. But unlike a modern political leader, Paul grounds the whole operation back in Christ.

In Paul’s way of thinking, transformation according to the will of God is achieved through prayer (which also increases connections between people) and a spirit of gratefulness for each other toward God. All our hope is in something bigger than an election, or a social movement, or a specific policy. We are “rescued from the power of darkness” by God, we become something new that is not fated to always set up injustice as systemic. We are citizens also of the reign of God, redeemed. it’s not clear here how it unfolds, however it seems to be unfolding through Paul’s loving and supportive words for the people of Colossae (whether it is actually Paul writing or not is not the point). So perhaps we can affirm and thank each other to spread a sense of hope and possibility.

But what must we do? how do we access this light and this hope?

In the gospel Jesus tells a story of a man who is beaten up and left for dead. He slips between the cracks as far as the organised religion is concerned, the priest and Levite cannot offer the ministry that is needed. Perhaps the man was gay? Perhaps he was Muslim? Maybe he just wasn’t from the right side of the tracks, or the right creed, or could not engage with the right sort of liturgy. Maybe the Catholic guilt got to him and he beat himself up and abandoned himself on the side of the road. At any rate that is what I did.

Some unclean Samaritan walked past. Or some unclean feminist. Or some atheist maybe, some sort of unbeliever. Outsider, heretic, “other”. What on earth are we expected to think when the wrong people help us? When the wrong people minister to us? When we rediscover our faith through the sorts of adventures that we were always told don’t happen to good little Catholic girls? But the Samaritan who is really neighbour goes to great lengths to offer practical support, not just comforting words. he makes a long-term commitment to see this through. A filthy Samaritan does all this? What are we supposed to think? Are there no standards these days?

But when Jesus turns this puzzle back onto the cleverly questioning lawyer, the lawyer does not say “the Samaritan” because he has been converted to seeing that the only part of the person’s identity that matters is his identity as “the one who shows mercy”. So that is that. We see who it is that is showing mercy and we know who the good guys are!

But Jesus flips it again. This is not just about including the right people, about recognising the good of others. “Go and do likewise” he says. He says it to the lawyer he is talking to but maybe also to the priest and the Levite in his story. That really would be transformative wouldn’t it, if there were no cracks to fall through to begin with, and the Samaritan merely joined the story to help what the priest and Levite were already doing?

Interesting also that in so far as we are the rejected or excluded, this parable clearly shows that we are in no way let off from God’s call, just because we ourselves are “Samaritans”.

So my question would be how do we do likewise? How do we accept valid criticism (as Amaziah in the first reading didn’t)? How do we judge our work by the standards in the psalm (the extent to which we stand up for the poor and needy). How do we offer thanks and support to the people in our lives who do this work (whether they are insiders or outsiders)? Who do we see beaten up by circumstances, or even by their own flawedness and lying helpless on the side of the road to life?

If I see a way this week to live answers to any of these questions then I pray to God for the courage and wisdom to do so. Because the opportunity to do this work is truly “the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

The kingdom of God cannot be outsourced

I’ve had it with Job, maybe it’s time I gave some attention to the alternative readings. This one by Jeremiah can be read as a simplistic and idealised call to greater faith. I prefer to read it as one of those Utopian visions that confounds the fatalism and inevitability of “this is the real world” thinking. This reading does not call us to apathetically “trust God” to deliver us, rather to believe and commit to a faith that social change IS possible and that God desires it at least as much as we do. So when we take our activist selves up and throw ourselves into the neverending quest for justice we are on God’s team, we are bringing about a vision bigger than ourselves, before ourselves, after ourselves we are building the reign of God.

Therefore even with the defeats and moments of despair we suffer it is worth still pursuing the unique chivalry (with critical possiblities) of God’s table. God will take the weeping and the broken and those in need of consolation and bring them back from their exile in the “real world” of performativity and disconnection and exploitation. God will comfort, lead and adopt. We can read this vision and be moved by it and beg God to give us a place in the plan to help bring it about. I am sure it is meant to be a motivating reading, not an invitation to sit back because God will wait on us hand and foot while we just mumble kyriearchal compliments and grovel.

When God delivers, it is like a dream…there are shouts of joy. But in this psalm, it is significant that the people who God is delivering have worked very hard (and with tears) to sow the seeds tor the impossible harvest which God restores. Again our place is in the struggle, sowing the seeds for God’s deliverance of sheaves of golden justice and joy.

Hebrews seems to be saying the opposite, that we have no further need of “priests” because we have the one “high priest” which is Christ. But in another place we are told we are the body of Christ, so the priesthood is enacted through that body, therefore through all of us. Maybe it is the organised hierarchical view of priesthood that is called into question (and wouldn’t that be a bitter pill for the church) but there is no possibility of reading this as “sit back, relax and Christ will do it all”. If Christ has made the offering for our sins, then we are free- not to sin again defiling the temple that is creation but to move out of sin and behave as the priestly body of Christ in the eternal atonement and redemption act.

Which I realise is no easy task.

But the priestly body that we through Eucharist, through sacrament, through grateful love and radical Christ-orientation become is the perfect body, the sinless body that “always lives to make intercession” for those who seek to approach God through this priesthood. We need to be an advocate, a conduit for the people of God deeper into God, into justice, into the joy of the miraculous harvest.

The blind beggar in the gospel is confronting a world that limits him and leaves him out. He is refusing the polite silence that accepts marginalisation and he is demanding “mercy”. You can read “mercy” as a one off act of compassion but I was educated in a tradition where “mercy” came with ideal of social action for justice and the demand of mercy was to be “loyal in everything”. We were specifically asked to consider how much good would one occasion of charity achieve compared to the louder, more difficult task of demanding a change to systems of oppression. Even though the teachers often addressed us as “ladies” (which was a bit vomitous) the model of discipleship we discussed was not ladylike and didn’t shrink from raising its voice.

The blind man in the gospel is advocating for himself, there is no harm in doing just that. How often do Christians side with the “many” who tell people such as him to be silent, to be invisible or call his thirst for justice, dignity and equality a life-style choice and thus dismiss it as non-urgent. Interesting when he comes to Jesus, Jesus does not do as our society and most well meaning people do. He does not tell the man how he will solve his problems, colonise the man with Jesus’ idea of salvation, dignity or usefulness. Jesus asks the man what help he wants.

When we help do we ask people what help they want? Or do we know better than them?

The man asks to be made well, regains his sight and follows Jesus on the way. Jesus is the way. So the demanding and raucous call for acknowledgement, healing and justice leads to apostleship. Along the way the man will meet others calling for healing, the man will be free to call out and advocate for them also or to offer whatever healing he learns from Jesus.

I have been blind, I have raised my voice. When God heals me I will be commissioned also to walk along with Jesus and listen out for the voices calling for justice. I call out, I am honest about what I want from God. I sow seeds even if I weep with despair as I do it. God’s kingdom happens along the way, it transforms and impassions and conscripts. And then there is joy when we reap the grains of our hope against hope.