Monday, July 13, 2009

New Mercies Everyday

In 1993 theologian George Lindbeck offered his reminiscences of Vatican II. Lindbeck, a Lutheran, was one of 60 "delegated observers" to the proceedings. (see The Church In A Postliberal Age)

He tells the story of how Pope John XXIII offered the observers a private audience at the beginning of the second three month session, where he shared a homily. Lindbeck said, "He spoke on some favorite words of his from scripture, 'the mercies of the LORD are new every morning,'" saying that he had experienced their truth throughout his life. Lindbeck recalls this as a happy occasion, but, of course, none of them knew that the Pope was a dying man.

The text come from Lamentations 3.22, 23, the full reading being:


Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.


They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.


I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." (NRSV)

These are good verses for a dying Pope, a struggling pilgrim, and maybe even a pastor's blue Monday. A hard day yesterday, perhaps only low energy available for today, one needs to be reminded that the Father is faithful (even when we cannot be), and his grace is sufficient (for his strength is made perfect in our weaknesses). We may be consumed, but his compassion extends and his love blossoms within and we are therefore, somehow, saved.

This meshes with today's responsorial Psalm:

Ps 124:1b-3, 4-6, 7-8

R. (8a) Our help is in the name of the Lord.

Had not the LORD been with us–

let Israel say, had not the LORD been with us–

When men rose up against us,

then would they have swallowed us alive,

When their fury was inflamed against us.

R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;

The torrent would have swept over us;

over us then would have swept

the raging waters.

Blessed be the LORD, who did not leave us

a prey to their teeth.

R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

We were rescued like a bird

from the fowlers' snare;

Broken was the snare,

and we were freed.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.

R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

But notice, the Lamentation text reminds us that we also must decide to wait on the LORD. I take this to be a reference to prayer -- especially if prayer is defined as clearing off space in our lives so that we might focus on the Father. For it is in the prayer moment when we, perhaps silently, (perhaps desperately) offer our weary heart, harassed by circumstances, to him who knows us better that we know ourselves.