Rather than rush in with my very fallible, fallen human voice in order to comment on the tragic and alarming events of the past 48 hours I have decided to place here instead the words I read from this morning’s Divine Office.
The psalm for the Office of Readings was Psalm 38. As I read it I found myself quickly reading it in the voice of our collective nation.
Our fractured, frayed, hanging by a thread nation.
Do so for yourself and see if you “hear” it the same way I did.
Psalm 38: A Penitent Sufferer’s Plea for Healing
O Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger,
nor chasten me in thy wrath!
For thy arrows have sunk into me,
and thy hand has come down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh
because of thy indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.
My wounds grow foul and fester
because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
For my loins are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh. I
am utterly spent and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
Lord, all my longing is known to thee,
my sighing is not hidden from thee.
My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my kinsmen stand afar off.
Those who seek my life lay their snares,
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin,
and meditate treachery all the day long.
But I am like a deaf man, I do not hear,
like a dumb man who does not open his mouth.
Yea, I am like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
But for thee, O Lord, do I wait;
it is thou, O Lord my God, who wilt answer.
For I pray, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
who boast against me when my foot slips!”
For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity,
I am sorry for my sin.
Those who are my foes without cause are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
Those who render me evil for good
are my adversaries because I follow after good.
Do not forsake me, O Lord!
O my God, be not far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!
Had I the time I’d do a commentary on the verses in particular that stand out and how I see them in relation to our nation today. But I am instead going to leave that up to each individual reader.
The second reading this morning was from a letter to the Corinthians by Pope St. Clement. One sentence in particular stood out in context with the events fresh on my mind:
“For it is better for a man to confess his sins than to harden his heart.”
Agreed. It is better that he or she do so (or in my example for our nation to do so), but it certainly is not easy. It seems that the majority of us have chosen the path of the hardened heart. Because it is easier to do so. I get it.
And finally, as if in answer to the nation’s admission in Psalm 38, the first psalm in Morning Prayer was Psalm 51. If America, and we as individuals, could only admit our guilt and confess our sins, two things made all the more difficult by our hardened and stubborn pride, we would go a long ways towards healing ourselves and our nation. The trouble is that based upon the comments I see in social media, and not just in regards to the events in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas but in relation to pretty much anything in people’s lives, we have a long ways to go.
Psalm 51: Prayer for Cleansing and Pardon
Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love;
according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
and done that which is evil in thy sight,
so that thou art justified in thy sentence
and blameless in thy judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Fill me with joy and gladness;
let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence,
and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors thy ways,
and sinners will return to thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
thou God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance.
O Lord, open thou my lips,
and my mouth shall show forth thy praise. F
or thou hast no delight in sacrifice;
were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good to Zion in thy good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then wilt thou delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on thy altar.