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By Stephen Berg

Mercy come call on my cynical heart: a prayer


When Pope Francis announced a year dedicated to Divine Mercy, I saw the beauty of this — was buoyed by its hope. And then, as quickly, the old cold front moved in and I caught myself thinking that this will change nothing. Cast back into a disillusionment that I know too well, I recognized that if I was to be remotely responsive to this call, I had to confront my own hide-bound skepticism, my own lack of faith in divine mercy.

I came to it that the only way I had of chipping away at this frozen surface was to write my own prayer. (It is, of course, possible that not much will change, but it is also possible that those who live with mercy as their constant watchword might personally change — which is the only way greater change happens.) As it is, I offer the following as one of the year’s possible prayers:

Mercy, come call on my cynical heart. Doubt I can live with, walk with, use as a candle to my path. But cynicism rots me while convincing me of its propriety.
So scour this soul, to receive the song of a dawn sparrow, to rekindle the wonder I once held like flames in cupped hands.

Raise these eyes to behold, and be held, by beauty kindness, gentleness . . . that fruit-of-the-spirit list against which there is no law.

Lift me to see the shining presence in all these faces that pass by.

Heal the hope that’s been tarred and feathered, mocked by corruption, scorned by powers, utilized, brutalized and blown up on the streets.

Keep me from ascribing meaning to all this violence, and so falling headlong into the tribalism of hate.

Free me from envy and bitterness — those cousins of cynicism. (May the earth and all its lovers forgive my careless footprints.)

Call up my mystic and rebel, let my voice find its voice, my prayer, its prayer, my offering, humility.

And when I feel blessed, let me receive it with gratitude — not tax it through assessment — but recline in it, without reserve.

When I want to die, or wish to live forever, help me listen to the wisdom of seasons. Let life and death be what they are, without making idols — and the days that remain, lived free.

Mercy loves empathy! so let me not forget Brian, Angel, John, Ally — who live on the streets, pick bottles, beg, expose my complicity, my poverty, my addictions, yet receive, welcome, humanize me, through their own halting, uncharted, quiet presence — with whom, on more than one occasion, I have been lead to divine the spirit of one identity.

Let the cool rain of mercy-loves-empathy soak through my nearest, dearest relationships, which can, without intention, be the ones left drying under a hot sun.

And shine a light on that shadow within, that other me that carries the burden of me, with its pain and disappointment. May there be a reunion of me with that other me, and so a truer me, you’ll meet.

Mercy, build a house for love, with a billion rooms for guests. Build it on a hill so love can be seen tending love’s garden, heard singing from the valleys, shouting the festal shout across the seas, calling welcome to all pilgrims leaving the caves of cynicism, entering the meadows of generosity, and waiting for the rest . . . waiting for all to undergo the burden of Love — so light a burden.

Berg works for Hope Mission, a social care facility for homeless people in Edmonton’s inner city. His poetry and prose have been in staged performances and have appeared in such publications as the Edmonton Journal, Orion, Geez, and Earth Shine. He blogs at