WC Fields was a famous comical actor who often played the role of being very unreligious. But one day a friend unexpectedly comes into his room to find Fields thumbing thru the Bible. His friend was very surprised at this and said: “Bill are you finally getting religion in your old age”? He said, “I am only looking for some loopholes.”
“And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” MK 10:47 In today’s Gospel Bartimaeus found a huge loophole! “Have mercy on me.” Mark’s Gospel shares with us one of the most wonderful and effective prayers in the New Testament. Mercy is a massive theme not only in the New Testament but also in the Old.
Both in the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament there are many different words that express mercy. “He delights in mercy.” (Micah 7:18) Here the Hebrew word is kesed which means a faithful love “which lasts forever”. Another Hebrew word is ḥannûn which meansgracious to grant an undeserved favor. It is the beggar’s prayer.
In the New Testament there are again many words like eleeō which we use in the beginning of every Mass “Lord have mercy” which is often used in the original Biblical Greek “Kyrie, Eleison”. One the most deeply felt words in Greek is splanchnizō. It means being compassionately moved in your most inmost being with mercy. Splanka in Greek means our intestines. It is used about 7 times to describe Jesus’ feeling for us!
We must all live on the edge of God’s mercy. We must not be afraid to jump into the depth of His kindness. There is a great democracy among all of us. We all exist on the precincts of God’s mercy. None of us can demand God’s favor! God’s kindness is not primarily wages due to us for work well done. All is a pure gift due to the Body of Christ given to us and His Blood poured out for us on the cross. If this is true for the saints among us how much more for us who are deeply flawed? It seems to me that I must handle my very deep flaws by basically living on the edge of God’s compassion!
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.