Bible Study -Week 6
Forgive Us our Sins as We Forgive Those who Sin against Us
Penitential Psalms: 6, 25, 32, 38, 50, 51, 102, 106, 130, 143
Forgive us as we forgive. We get another break this week in that we only have ten psalms to read, however the message is a powerful one, one of forgiveness as we prepare to celebrate Holy Week, the great culmination of Lent. Along with the traditional penitential psalms: Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143; Fr. Murphy includes Psalms 25, 50 and 106.
Psalm 25 is another acrostic psalm with each line beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The unifying theme is praying for forgiveness and guidance. Psalm 106 is an historical psalm recounting Israel’s sinfulness in worshipping false idols and complaining against God, and God’s great mercy and forgiveness of them despite their sins. Psalm 50 sets the stage for Psalm 51. A charge is brought against the people.
In response to this charge we hear Psalm 51, the most well-known of the penitential psalms where the writer prays for the removal of personal and social sin, a psalm commonly associated with Lent. Attributed to King David after being confronted about his affair with Bathsheba, David prays: “Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense. Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me . . . wash me, make me whiter than snow … A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.” (3-4, 9b, 12)
Psalm 32 addresses the need to speak our sins: “As long as I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all the day . . .Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, “I confess my faults to the Lord, and you took away the guilt of my sin.” (3, 5)
While there is a mournful tone to these psalms, I felt comforted and even joy while reading them, knowing God’s mercy and forgiveness. It’s a reminder of the peace that can be found through forgiveness.
The penitential psalms remind us that God forgives those who come to him with sincere, contrite hearts. Jesus takes this a step further when he instructs us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses/sins as we forgive those who trespass/sin against us.” We aren’t just asking God to forgive our sins, but to only forgive us if we forgive others. We are imposing a condition on our forgiveness.
Do we really know what we are saying when we pray the Lord’s Prayer? We are asking to be held to a higher standard. So often the words fall glibly off our tongues with no thought. We are saying that if we hold onto bitterness and refuse to forgive wrongs done to us, then God is to do the same to us. I’d rather pray the penitential psalms than this prayer. But in forgiving we find forgiveness and healing.
Jesus showed us with his life what it means to forgive others when he prayed from the cross: “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” This week, as we prepare for Holy Week, reflect on what it means to forgive others as you forgive. Search your heart for remnants of bitterness, resentments, hurts unhealed, and pray for the grace to forgive and to be healed.
Copyright Robertson 3/13