I have mercy on the brain.
Pope Francis has announced a Jubilee Year of Mercy to begin in December. I am in the midst of a research project on the sacrament of reconciliation, in which God’s mercy is implored and praised. I was curious to see how often the texts of the Roman Catholic Mass speak of mercy so I examined the texts for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (otherwise known as August 9th). Depending on which form of the penitential act is used, presider and people ask between one and four times for God’s mercy. Twice, the Gloria asks for mercy. The Prayer over the Offerings refers to mercy as an attribute of God, evident in the provision to the Church of the gifts to be offered. Eucharistic Prayer I does not specifically request God’s mercy in the 2011 translation (though it does ask God for pardon). Eucharistic Prayer II asks that God have mercy on “us all” in the former and in the current version. The 2011 translation of Eucharistic Prayer III refers to the Father as “merciful,” revising the former translation’s appeal to the Father “in mercy and in love [to] unite all your children.” Twice, the 2011 translation of Eucharistic Prayer IV refers to mercy. The first instance (“And when through disobedience he had lost your friendship, you did not abandon him to the domain of death. For you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek might find you. Time and again you offered them covenants and through the prophets taught them to look forward to salvation.”) adds the word mercy where the idea of mercy or pardon is absent in the former translation. The second instance is a reference to the “merciful Father” where the former translation asks the Father “in your mercy” to grant the assembly to enter into the heavenly inheritance. The Lord’s Prayer does not mention mercy, though petition for forgiveness features prominently. The Embolism asks that by God’s mercy “we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress.” The Lamb of God has two specific petitions for mercy but if it is sung and extended, these petitions may be repeated a number of times. By my count, there are as few as five and as many as nine direct petitions for mercy with a few other references to mercy or the need / hope for forgiveness.
The point of this exercise concerns John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia and Sacrosanctum concilium. In the exhortation (no. 18), John Paul draws upon Pius XI to express concern about the loss of a sense of sin. No. 34 of the liturgy constitution holds that “the rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.”
Too much of God’s mercy is never enough for human sinners, but does requesting God’s mercy nine or more times in the space of an hour or so help or hurt the cause of recovering a sense of sin? Do calls for God’s mercy sink into my / your / our bones or do they become background noise so that less might be more?