This week we Lectio the Liturgy with the Collect for the 3rd Sunday of Lent. This prayer dates back to the mid eighth century, and has always been used during the Lenten season.
O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness, who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving have shown us a remedy for sin, look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
In this prayer, we learn more about the attributes of God and how deep his love is for us.
The prayer is addressed to God, the author of every mercy and of all goodness. Did you ever think about the definition of the word author? An author creates something that hasn’t been written before. Our God created something that hadn’t been created before, mercy and goodness. We learn in this prayer that in his mercy and goodness, he not only tells us that he has a remedy for sin, he tells us what the remedy is: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
We are asking God to look graciously on our confession of lowliness. The word graciously can also be translated as mercifully. As you can tell, this prayer is heavy on the mercy of God.
As I spent time with the prayer, instead of the mercy being the focus, I reflected on the confession of lowliness. This confession, when done honestly, takes a lot of humility. We know we sin, we sometimes don’t know why we did what we did, but it’s really easy to skim over the surface with a general, “forgive me of my sins today” prayer. Let’s face it, sometimes it hurts to admit that we’ve done something to offend God or others or to admit that we aren’t the spic-n-span person we like to present to others.
I believe that as we mature in our walk with Christ, our view of sin changes. Sin becomes less of a laundry list of things I’ve done wrong, and more of a gentle tugging on my heart telling me that something I have done has damaged my relationship with God. My prayer for forgiveness and my time with the Sacrament of Reconciliation are now spent repairing a relationship. I’ve had times when, in prayer, the Holy Spirit has prompted me and told me the root cause of the sin, which allows me to pray into it and to start digging at the root, instead of letting it defeat me. I praise God that he’s shown me where I need work, but that, too, requires humility (especially if that root is pride!).
When it comes to mercy, we could talk all day about ways God shows his mercy to us, but there’s another part to it. We need to be willing to change. Mercy isn’t just another handout. We need to desire God's mercy just as we need to recognize the changes we need to make in our lives that will lead us to His mercy. We can make those changes with God’s remedies of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. These tools help strengthen our souls and keep our focus on Him.
Don’t despair! The best is yet to come and I love this part!! By this time, if you’re feeling like you’ve fallen into a hole you can’t get out of or you feel like you can’t hold your head up anymore, know that you are lifted up by God’s mercy. In the Latin form of the prayer the verb for lifted up is sublevemur. It does not mean to be lifted by the scruff of the neck or pulled up by a rope. It means to lift from beneath. Just like we so gently lift a newborn baby, God lifts us up. Then he puts his hand under our chin, directs our face to His face, He looks into our eyes and tells us that there’s nothing we can do to make him love us less. That is the never-ending mercy of God.
Lectio the Liturgy: We can’t earn God’s mercy, it is a gift. I take that back. It does cost us. We are asked to come humbly before God, admit to our littleness, and let the author of all mercy and goodness love us. In your prayer this week, ask God for one area of your life you need to surrender to his mercy. Know that your true identity is who God says you are, so let him touch that area with his healing hand.
Thanks for praying with me,