Continuing with the same theme of sin and forgiveness, I wish to write a short reflection on Psalm 25. Since we are in Lent, this is theme that will continue through this desert journey. You should have heard Psalm 25 yesterday as the Responsorial Psalm for the First Sunday in Lent. Instead of focusing on the entire psalm, as I did with Psalms 41 and 51, I will only discuss the verses (4-5, 6-7, 8-9) that were read or sung yesterday during the Sunday Liturgy. Below is how the Responsorial Psalm is written in the Daily Roman Missal –
Response: Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.
Your ways, O LORD, make know to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your love are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O LORD.
Good and upright is the LORD, thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and he teaches the humble his way.
Psalm 25 begins as the psalmist lifting up his soul to God and not to graven images as happened in the previous psalm (Ps 24:4). The psalmist continues to say the just man who fears the Lord will be allowed to enter the temple. We must understand that “fear of the Lord” is not fear like you are afraid of God or fear in a horror movie, but “fear of the Lord” means that we are in awe of God’s presence.
In Psalm 25:4-7, the psalmist is seeking how the Lord will instruct him in all his ways because salvation only comes from God. He wants God to lead him in his laws and teach him how to act accordingly. The psalmist asks God to forgive him and to have mercy, love and goodness upon him. The translation that we use in the Roman Liturgy comes from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament. In this translation, we read the phrase – “Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your love are from of old.” In the Revised Standard Version – Second Catholic Edition, the same verse is translated as “Be mindful of your compassion, O LORD, and of your merciful love, for they have been from of old.
The psalmist is still seeking forgiveness, however, he is hoping that the Lord will not take away his merciful love or hesed from him. As I discussed in Psalm 51, the term hesed means covenant love or covenant fidelity. When God established his covenants [covenant – an extension of kinship by oath] with Adam, Noah, Abram (Abraham), Moses, and David, he sets the foundation of the covenants with hesed – covenant fidelity. This is such an important idea since it will come to fulfillment when Jesus Christ establishes the New Covenant with Apostles and all of us in Luke 22: 14-23 at the Last Supper. For a detailed account of these covenants, read the book – A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn.
In Psalm 25:8-9, the term “sinners” and “the humble” are seen as the same for it’s the humble man that admits that he is a sinner. It is Our Lord Jesus Christ who teaches us truth, shows us mercy (hesed) and brings us peace. St. Augustine says, in the New Testament, we see Jesus forgiving sins and speaking truth and judging both by their actions. In Jesus’ teachings we see both mercy and judgment. The man that follows the Lord’s ways and knows that his actions don’t contribute to his own salvation; is the man who will come to the Lord and be close to him. As he draws closer to the Lord, he will know the Lord’s path and avoid the harsh judgment that will fall upon those who don’t engage and draw near to the Lord. The man who keeps his covenant will remain in the hesed of God.
As human beings, we deal with the knowledge of our sins on a daily basis. We know that we are sinful and that we must repent of our sins accordingly. The Catholic Church, in her wisdom, establishes for us these 40 days that assist us in acknowledging our sinful ways and seeking means of forgiveness. During this Lenten Season, I would encourage you to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you have not been in sometime, I would really encourage you to seek out this blessed and grace-filled sacrament. In his book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says about the sacrament of reconciliation – “In every good confession the holiest victories are won by the power of conscience, by love for purity and goodness, by desire of God and of peace of soul. Confession has given new courage and new confidence and a fresh start in life to millions of men.”