Find the complete Psalm 103 here.
Lent is traditionally the season in which our focus is on the need for repentance within our lives. It is a time when people are more open to acknowledge the need for reconciliation than at other times during the year, and of recognizing that the Lord indeed “forgives all our sins and heals all our illness.”
Above the entrance to Dublin Castle can be seen the doomed roof of the Clock Tower and the Statue of Justice. The statue of Justice faces towards the Castle, prompting Dubliners to say that Justice had turned her back on the people and was more concerned with protecting the State. There have been times when as a Church and as a society we find ourselves more invested in protecting the “institution” than in addressing the injustice that was visited upon people, and particularly children.
The scales represent the weight of the arguments for the prosecution and for the defence. I assume this is where the phrase "weighting up the evidence" comes from. In the centre of each of the scales of Justice in Dublin Castle, a hole has been drilled. Apparently at one time, rainwater built up within the scales and tilted them. Strangely the scales tilted towards the tax office in the Castle Square rather than towards the people in the city. Some may view this as symbolic of how society seems unequally tilted in favour of the status quo and institutions rather than on the side of the people, and particularly those people most in need.
Holes had to drilled into the scales to keep the balance and to ensure that the scales don't physically tilt upsetting the equilibrium. Where would we be if the equilibrium of society or the Church was unbalanced by the needs of the people!
The picture of God’s love and forgiveness presented in the Psalm is a far cry from the oft quoted line “call sin a sin.” This psalm presents a more compassionate understanding of the weakness within all our lives. The “forgiveness of sins and the healing of illnesses” recognizes that sin is not just the things we do or fail to do; sin is not just about breaking laws; it is a fundamental assertion that sin hurts; that sin is about hearts being broken more than it is about laws being broken. Maybe a more compassionate understanding of the hurts and weaknesses we all have would serve us better than rushing to label people as “sinners.”
We are reminded that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of “forgiveness and healing” – forgiveness for the wrongs we have done, and healing for the hearts that have been broken.
The God within this psalm is not standing with a set of scales to weigh up our sins against our good deeds. This is a God who both “knows how we are formed” and who “remembers we are dust.” This is a God who knows us in the sacred space of out innermost being. He does not judge nor “treat us as our sins deserve”, but He takes the initiative in rushing towards us with his compassion and tenderness. No wonder the psalmist is inspired to shout out the praises of God!
Brian McKee, Retreat Director