The meditation on the Collect Prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent
Hello and welcome to the Lenten podcast series of Saint James. I’m Father David Peck and I will lead this short reflection and time of silence on the theme of mercy. This week’s collect prayer is:
Almighty God, whose glory is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast to the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The weekly collect (or “collecting”) prayers of the Book of Common Prayer are prayers that are meant to set the trajectory of the heart and minds of a whole congregation towards God. They always begin by naming and praising attribute, or characteristic of God.
This week’s prayer identifies ‘mercy’ not only as one attribute of God, but remarkably as the sum total of his glory. In English we use the expression “He has covered himself in glory with that performance”. So now the collect asserts, God is one who covers himself in glory by showing mercy. Indeed, it is his glory always to have mercy.
We have become so used to saying that God is love, that we stop there and miss what happens when we say, “God is mercy.” For me a God of love is somehow more abstract than the more immediate sense I have as a sinner of God’s mercy. Those things I hate about myself or am impatient with, are those things about me that put me out of alignment with God, my family, and my neighbor.
But how do I, who every day ‘go astray’, not end up obsessing about my sins and imperfections? How do I as a sinner confidently build up a loving relationship with God and others while being realistic about my shortcomings? The wonderful answer the bible gives us is God’s mercy.
Think for a moment how wonderful such knowledge is. Think about how amazing it is that God is not waiting for you to be better than you are now to love you. He loves you fully right now because of his mercy. Just imagine his mercy precisely because of your going astray.
He already knows you and simply wants you to return more fully to know his mercy. Try to feel what is out of alignment in you now and imagine God not fixing anything or expecting you to do so either.
Jesus is the mercy of God. Indeed Pope Francis has recently written that the name of God is mercy. If God is love, then he is mercy. Indeed the reason God is loving is because he is first merciful. For only a God whose nature is always to have mercy, could always be loving towards a human race, a church, and we ourselves, who fall short of the glory of God. That glory that is most chiefly revealed in His mercy. May you know God’s mercy this day and evermore. Amen. ~ Fr. David