O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent
may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings,
and by following in his Way
come to share in his glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 79.8-9, 12, 14
Remember not against us our former sins;
let your compassion make haste to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and wipe away our sins for your name’s sake.
Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you,
and by your mighty arm
preserve those who are condemned to die.
But we that are your people and the sheep of your pasture
will give you thanks for ever,
and tell of your praise from generation to generation.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’
The opening words of today’s reading should not surprise us: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. We encounter the same sentiment at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, in the Beatitudes: Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. As in the Beatitudes, Jesus’ encouragement to be merciful does not stand alone. Immediately before today’s reading Jesus presents us with the challenge of loving our enemies. In case we are tempted to soften those words in any way Jesus is explicit in describing who he means by enemies. Then, after the opening words of today’s reading, he speaks of judgement, condemnation, forgiveness and generosity. As with the giving of the command to love our enemies, Jesus is explicit: do not judge or condemn others, and do forgive and be generous towards those same others.
It is not uncommon to hear people speaking of ‘tough love’. Such ‘love’ can inflict pain and anguish, but the perpetrator of ‘tough love’ would say that they are being merciful, they are acting in the best interest of the recipient of their form of love and mercy. But … of course … such ‘cruel’ love does not fit comfortably alongside the teachings of Jesus. To come to the conclusion that we need to inflict ‘tough love’ we need to have judged and condemned someone. There is also the fact that we have taken the decision to deprive someone of their freedom to choose how they wish to live out and develop their relationship with God.
To show mercy is to forgive those who have trespassed against us. To show mercy is to have compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves. To show mercy is to refrain from exerting power and authority over others. All of this is contained within Jesus’ words in today’s reading.
People make poor choices in their lives. We make poor choices in our lives. It is not for us, or our fellow human beings, to judge and to condemn. It is for us to show mercy.
There will come a time of judgement and, perhaps, condemnation. But, the judge will be God. Let us pray that on that day, he will see how merciful we have been and show mercy to us.
Prayers of intercession
In love and fellowship with all, let us pray to the Lord.
Fill the Church with the spirit of mutual love which seeks no advantage but only the glory of God. Help her ministers to speak the truth in love, patiently to bear opposition and to admonish without condemnation.
We pray for peace in the world, for reconciliation between nations and races that are hostile to one another. Turn curses to blessings and anger to loving acceptance. Guide those who have much of this world’s goods to share more freely with those who have little.
Give grace to us, to our families, friends and neighbours, to live in love and peace, to resolve all disputes and to forgive all injuries. Bless with a generous spirit all who live and work in this community.
Have mercy on all who are oppressed, who suffer violence and contempt. Strengthen them in their trouble and turn the hearts of their persecutors.
We remember those who have passed out of this world and are at rest from its wraths and sorrows. Grant them forgiveness of sins and the reward of eternal life.
We pray in the name of Christ, ever loving and merciful to all who call on him.
Prayer for the week
Lord Christ, who came to call
not the righteous but sinners to repentance:
help us in this season of Lent
to hear and respond to your call;
that by your grace
we may turn from whatever in our lives
is at variance with your will,
and walk in the way of holiness and love,
to the glory of God the Father.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.