Merciful Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church by the sacrifice of Christ. United with Him in Holy Baptism, give us grace to receive with thanksgiving the fruits of His redeeming work and daily follow in His way; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
We pray to a merciful Lord in this prayer. My friend once stood in front of a judge and pleaded for mercy, and he did not get it. He was guilty. He had in the heat of a moment pulled out a gun and pulled the trigger. He had not intended to hurt someone, but someone got hurt, badly. Now, he was standing before a judge with nothing say but to appeal for mercy.
That I the thing about mercy. We talk about mercy in two situations. The first of this is in a court room, it can only be shown by the judge to the guilty person. If the judge lets an innocent man walk free from prison, that is not mercy, that is justice. Mercy can only be shown to the person who is guilty. The second is when circumstances have given us some advantage over another person. We also talk about people showing mercy to those who are somehow needy. We might have mercy on a stranded person beside the road and give them a lift into town. We might have mercy on the victims of a flood, a hurricane, or a tornado by opening our wallets or sending relief to them. We can show them mercy because we have not lost our home or car. If I find that both of us are standing by the road with broken down cars, I really cannot show you mercy. If both of us have had our homes swept away by a flood, my care and comfort you is not really mercy, it is the brotherhood of shared misery that we see.
Why do we call God merciful in this prayer? It is because we stand before Him helpless and without any other to help us. Beggared by sin and death, guilty of our sin, we turn to Him for mercy. Without His gift we cannot even manage to be thankful for the fruits of His redeeming work. Praise God for His mercies which are renewed every morning, inexhaustible in Christ. You follow in His way when you thank God for forgiving your sins. You did not deserve that. It was mercy.