the penitential psalms
"I said, 'I confess my faults to the Lord,' and You took away the guilt of my sin." —Psalm 32:5
Today's psalm response is from one of the seven penitential psalms as listed in the footnotes of the New American Bible. The seven Penitential Psalms are psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. I've often prayed passages from these psalms in times of repentance and penance and especially when preparing for Confession. Have you ever been so sorry for your sins that you can't even find the words to express your sorrow to God? (see Ps 6:3-4) On occasion, I've been so overwhelmed by my sinfulness that I've prayed all seven psalms consecutively.
The Lord says: "You have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the Lord" (Hos 14:2-3). In His mercy, God gives you in the penitential psalms the words to pray when you're so discouraged by your sinfulness that you don't know what to tell Him. Perhaps you are "very near to falling" (Ps 38:18), faint of spirit (Ps 143:4), or sunk in "the depths" (Ps 130:1) with weeping, tears, and eyes dimmed with sorrow (Ps 6:7, 8). Because of your guilt, you can't even sleep (Ps 102:8).
Therefore, to comfort and assure you, these psalms declare that God can't resist a repentant heart. He accepts a humble and contrite heart (Ps 51:19). In your repentant fear of Him, He wants you to be confident that "with [Him] is forgiveness" (Ps 130:4). Be penitential people, and make all heaven rejoice (Lk 15:7).
Prayer: Triune God, "I [acknowledge] my sin to You, my guilt I [cover] not" (Ps 32:5). "Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me" (Ps 51:4).
Promise: "Your sins are forgiven." —Lk 7:48
Praise: Praise You, risen Jesus! You died for us while we were still sinners (Rm 5:8). You take away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). Alleluia!
Reference: (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)
Rescript: †Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, December 29, 2009
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