Failure and Forgiveness

January 29, 2022
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings call us to consider and to cherish our relationship with our merciful God.

In our first reading, God sends the prophet Nathan to confront David with the enormity of his sin. With the parable of the ravaged little lamb, Nathan captures all the horrific implications of David’s blind selfishness.

Nathan Denounces David’s Sin
William Brassey Hole

David listens and agrees with the condemnation, still blind that the story is about him! Nathan then unleashes the zinger, “You are the man!


But here is the key point of the passage. When David realizes his culpability, he does not retreat into his shame (as, for example, Judas does many years hence.) David acknowledges his fault and asks to be restored to relationship with the God Who has loved him so much.

David focuses on God not himself.  He does not wallow in self-recrimination or excuses. David looks to God’s Mercy not into the mirror of self-justification:

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan answered David: “For his part, the LORD has removed your sin. You shall not die…

2 Samuel 12:13
It all transpires in this one verse. That simple, definitive change wrought by divine forgiveness constitutes the structure of Psalm 51 as well as the 2 Samuel narrative. It is the same structure in Christian liturgy as well. In psalm, narrative, and liturgy, it is a move from failure to restoration, a move from confession to assurance, even if the assurance is only implied in Psalm 51. The exchange is between human failure and divine assurance, made possible by human honesty and a divine readiness to begin again in mercy, steadfast love, and compassion.
Walter Brueggemann - From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

For prayer today, a deep reflection on Psalm 51 may bring us light and healing, for our own spirits and for the spirit of the world we share.


Poetry: Psalm 51 – A New Heart – Christine Robinson

Have mercy on me, O God,
   For I’ve messed up again
Sinned against You in thought, word and deed,
   and in what I have left undone.
Been--all too human.

Can you make me a new heart, O God?
   and a right spirit? Can you break my willful plundering
   of all that is Yours? 
If I got it together again, others would follow—
I could teach, guide, help—and I would!

O Lord, open my lips,
  that I may praise you.
I know you don’t want ritual sacrifice
   were I to give a burnt offering you’d be exasperated.
What you want is that new heart and right spirit. 
   For this, I pray.

Music: Miserere Mei (Have Mercy on Me, O God) – Gregorio Allegri 

One thought on “Failure and Forgiveness

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s