Every Wednesday in Lent, a member of the Tobar Mhuire Team will offer a reflection on the week's Psalm. For the latest entry visit this page on Wednesday or register to have the weekly reflection emailed to you. Registration at this link: http://eepurl.com/vbvH1.
3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is blameless in thy judgment. 5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6Behold, thou desires truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. 12Restore to me the joy of salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13Then I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners will return to thee. 14Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance. 17The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou will no despise.
“Just say it already!” I do not know how many times I have heard that phrase being used. But, I do remember one instance when I yelled it…to myself. I was living in Boston at the time and the stress of an important paper for my graduate degree was looming over me. I remember running into my housemate before one of my classes and I ended up saying something really insensitive. It was not until my walk home a few hours later that I realized how hurtful I had been. When I unlocked the door, I knew my housemate was in her room and I knew I had to apologize. As I made my way down the corridor I thought of every excuse and rationalization for my words, but only an apology would do. I was in the wrong and I knew it. As I stood outside her door, I finally heard this voice in my head yelling, “Just say it already!” And with a deep breath, I did.
Why did I apologize? Because I was in the wrong and I wanted to restore my relationship with my housemate. The only way to restore that relationship was to take ownership of my words, apologizes to her, and hope that she would forgive me and would want to continue on our path of friendship.
Why was it so hard for me to apologize? There was no question about who was in the right and who was in the wrong. I learned that one of the most difficult things to do is look someone in the eyes and admit that I was wrong, to admit that I made a mistake, to admit I have sinned. But, this is the message we receive from Psalm 51. Instead of trying to sweep his mistakes under the rug, we see David lamenting, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me,” and begging, “Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God.” This shows us how important it is to take ownership of our wrongdoing.
While the psalm teaches us the importance to taking ownership of our wrongdoing, it does not make it easy. Before David mustered up the courage to make his proclamation to God, there probably was a little voice in his head yelling, “Just say it already!” No matter how hard it maybe, in both our human relationships and in our relationship with God, there will be times when we need to apologize for our words and actions. Until we accept the fact that we have sinned and apologize, we cannot hope to repair the damaged relationship.
The beauty of this psalm and the beauty of our relationship with God is that the story doesn’t end with us and our sin. That’s only the beginning! The Christian faith is not centered on mistakes and sins, but on forgiveness and new relationships. We see David speaking with confidence that God would restore to him the joy of salvation and that God would not despise a broken and contrite heart. It is with the same confidence that we should approach God. If we apologize with sincerity and strive to live a better life, we too will not be despised.
So, as we remember our sins and our shortcomings, let this Ash Wednesday be an opportunity for growth rather than guilt. Give us the courage this Lenten season to begin repairing the broken relationships in our lives. And, lastly, pray that our individual apologies and the collective apology of the Church will become a catalyst for a new and deeper relationship with God and others.
Reflection by Cheryl Rice, International Volunteer
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