Thursday, February 10, 2005

Psalm 51:3b, "... in the greatness of your compassion, wipe out my offense."
When I was younger, Psalm 51 seemed intimidating: way too personal in a way that made me feel embarassed for David, pouring himself out so for his transgressions, sins I couldn't identify with, and to which I thought in my pride of youth I'd surely never be party (adultery, murder). I haven't killed anyone yet, and I'm relieved to say that adultery is hardly even a faint temptation, but the pre-eminent penitential psalm is far more digestible to me these days. One thing, it is unbelievably rich. About as feast-full of images as a fast is not. Our parish uses the Haugen setting, which wears well for me and the musicians look forward to it. The people sing the refrain well after eleven months. This morning, I awoke to the strains of that music, echoes of last night's last Mass. And more, a focus on that wonderful word, compassion. I feel a sense of gratitude that God's compassion is a gift waiting for us. I know I find it hard to believe, or is it more true I'm so coopted by my sins that it's easier to use the excuse, "I'm not worthy of this compassion," and take the easy way out, wallowing in the comfortable? One of my favorite gospel lines is the affirmation in Mark's gospel, "If you want to do so, you can heal me." (Another snack.) Then comes Jesus' dangerous reply, "Of course I want to. Be healed." Yipes. No excuses there. On to the next infirmity ... or sin. It's not God's power or ability to heal that I doubt. The doubt is self-directed. I have the confidence in God that when I want to grasp for that compassion, it will be there. I have enough personal experiences to convince me of that. However, between the intent of reaching, and the actual lifting of my arms toward God things happen sometimes. Well, that's why we have Lent, I suppose.

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