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 

Where Does God Live?

January 27, 2022
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we might take this question to our prayer: where does God dwell for me?

In our reading from Samuel, David had received an oracle (divine message) through the prophet Nathan. (see 2 Samuel 7:1-17) The essence of the three-way conversation is this: David is putting on the trappings of his kingship, including some fancy housing. He decides that God deserves a great house too and that David is going to build it. God says something like, “Hold up, David! — I’m the Divine Architect and Builder.” David is forcefully reminded that everything he has depends on God. In today’s passage, David humbly acknowledges all this while begging God to stay true to the promise of Israel’s prosperity:

Who am I, Lord GOD,
and who are the members of my house,
that you have brought me to this point?
Yet even this you see as too little, Lord GOD;
you have also spoken of the house of your servant
for a long time to come:
this too you have shown to man, Lord GOD

You have established for yourself your people Israel
as yours forever, and you, LORD, have become their God.
And now, LORD God, confirm for all time
the prophecy you have made
concerning your servant and his house,
and do as you have promised.

2 Samuel 7:18; 24-25

While these chapters tell us the great story of emerging kingship and messianic hope in the Judeo-Christian tradition, they also offer us some simpler thoughts for our prayer this morning.

Through our Baptism, we have been made temples of the Holy Spirit. We are made so by the grace and power of God so that we can reflect God’s Presence in our times. We are not all that different from David (except maybe we’re an uncrowned mini-version!)

It’s crucial to remember Who it is that built my “house” or “temple”.
I have not built a house for God.
God has built a house for me,
crafted from Baptismal Grace,
Confirmational Hope and
Eucharistic Love.

As God promised David, so God promises me, within the community of faith, to faithfully answer my prayer which might echo David’s:

Your servant now finds the courage to make this prayer to you.
And now, Lord GOD, you are God and your words are truth;
you have made this generous promise to your servant.
Do, then, bless the house of your servant
that it may be before you forever;
for you, Lord GOD, have promised,
and by your blessing the house of your servant
shall be blessed forever.”

2 Samuel 7:28-29

Poetry: Rabindranath Tagore

While God waits
for his temple
to be built of love,
men bring stones.

Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley

  1. I fall on my knees to the father of Jesus,
    The Lord who has shown us the glory of God.
  2. May he in his love give us strength for our living
    The strength of his spirit the glory of God.

Refrain
May Christ find a dwelling place of faith in our hearts.
May our lives be rooted in love, rooted in love.

  1. May grace and peace be yours in God our father
    and in his son (Refrain)
  2. I fall on my knees to the father of Jesus,
    The Lord who has shown us the glory of God (Refrain)

Who’s Boss?

Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

January 30, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, David has received a wake up call from God, delivered by the prophet Nathan:

Go and tell David my servant, Thus says the LORD:
Is it you who would build me a house to dwell in?
 
2 Samuel 7:5

As a follow up to David’s big idea of building a house for God, God says,”Wait a minute! I don’t think so!” Gently, but ever so clearly, God reminds David of a phrase very popular on social media today:

boss

It seems David has gotten a little full of himself. He likes being King. He decides to use his power and position to do something nice for God. But God uses the occasion to remind David that all that David has comes from God. David is not God’s King, he is God’s servant. David can’t do anything for God except to offer thanks, praise and worship.

Ps119 lamp

This huge spiritual insight turns David’s heart to see himself truly as God sees him. His subsequent prayer is full of humility and gratitude as David asks God for continued blessing on David’s House.

The lesson for me today is this: God is God. I am nothing without God. Everything I have and am comes from the Divine Goodness.

Meister Eckhart echoes here:

If the only prayer we say
in our entire lives is

“Thank You”,
it is enough.

Music: Thank You, God – mantra video composed by Michelle Sherliza