Psalm 51: Have Mercy on me, O Lord
You might expect that this is a chant blog for Lent with such a title. No. At Friday morning Lauds, we chant Psalm 51 – perhaps the most well-known penitential psalm – throughout the year. Though we have often discussed beauty and the value of repetition in both the Divine Office and Eucharist, I think this psalm and chant deserve a special mention.
Chanting Psalm 51 reminds me that I am in need of God’s mercy and loving restoration. The gentle Mode VI antiphon creates an aural “portrait” of God welcoming us home, much as in the story of the prodigal son.
Chanting Psalm 51 reminds me that we are about to go into the weekend, which concludes with Sunday – the Lord’s Day. Though that may seem an obvious thing, I often forget this and think primarily (if not exclusively!) of the projects I must accomplish which received none of my attention through the week. Chanting Psalm 51 reminds me that I am in need of God’s mercy to help me prepare for the Sabbath.
Finally, and perhaps most important, chanting Psalm 51 reminds me that I need to offer God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love to others which has been so generously given to me. Once again, chant – the song of prayer – turns me and all of us to God’s loving and welcoming voice!
By Sr. Nun Other
Matthew 5:48 says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I wear myself out trying to look perfect. I say look and not be, because I’m in enough reality to know I won’t reach that goal. In reading the verses surrounding Matthew 5:48, I discovered that God’s perfect has nothing to do with the flawless, ageless, sinless I imagine. It is instead about forgiveness and unselfish love, woven as a beautiful tapestry within one’s heart.
By Sr. Nun Other
I’m now part of a team assigned to keep the inner workings of our E.M. Skinner organ pipes dust free. The prelude to dusting included a tour of the area where the pipes reside. It was an intriguing labyrinth of small spaces, some high up and some maneuvered on hands and knees. What I found most interesting about the tour, was our guide didn’t focus on what to do, but rather on what not to do. Although he apologized for his negative approach, we assured him that his “learned the hard way” advice was invaluable. The what not to do’s represented hundreds of possible work hours and thousands of dollars saved. It occurred to me how easy it is to do the wrong thing — to respond in anger, withhold forgiveness, and seek vengeance. And how difficult it is to do right — to consider God’s love for my current enemy, turn the other cheek and ultimately forgive.
by Sr Nunother
I occasionally cause trouble by rushing to judgment. When I have an unresolved grievance against another, I’m primed to strike and easy prey to gossip and innuendo regarding that person. I wish to believe the worst because it validates my personal sense of rightness. This happened recently and I hurt a friend for whom I have considerable respect. John Henry Newman in Parochial and Plain Sermons wrote, “In truth, the all wise, all-knowing God cannot speak without meaning many things at once.” What an amazing thought! Unlike me, God views the world with perfect understanding and sees multiple possibilities where I see only my own narrow perspective. For example, what feels like love to the neglected, could translate as excessive control to another. Each interpretation would be true and valid. God’s love and mercy are creative and fathomless, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.
by Sr Nunother
To paraphrase a current advertising slogan, “What’s in my wallet?” What do I carry with me that I consider irreplaceable? Let’s see. I have currency in worry, a credit card of remembered slights, a repertoire of words to deceive or outwit, and…but wait a minute. That’s the old me, isn’t it, before I met Christ? Faith, trust, hope and forgiveness are fail-safe problem solvers if I allow their participation. Today I choose a wallet-full.
by Melodius Monk
“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’.” In reading Matthew’s Gospel this week, this command from Jesus stuck in my mind as something to ponder. I go about many days with these verbs reversed, thinking if I sacrifice enough, then God will show mercy. But this is not what Jesus asks.
Mercy can be defined as: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
I feel awkward that Jesus desires for me to show him compassion. How is it that the God of the universe desires that I show him mercy? Is it actually within our power to punish or harm this omnipotent God of all creation? Does God care for each of us so intimately that my rudeness, self-centeredness or arrogance hurts God so much that he desires – but does not force – yet desires mercy from me? Surely this generous love leaves plenty to ponder.
by Melodius Monk
In the early 1970’s, the Community of Jesus’ founders, Mother Cay and Mother Judy, would hold regular teaching conferences and bible studies. Thankfully, some of these teachings were recorded, and I enjoy listening to them to hear the voices and sayings of our Community’s Founders. On one tape I particularly like, the Mothers are talking about our need for Jesus. Mother Cay says in her calm voice, “It’s so relaxing to be a failure.”
This phrase makes me pause, giving me something to think and pray about. If you’re anything like I am, this lesson is so opposite of how I live. I strive to exhaustion to look good, to grasp at controlling my life and its surroundings. And where is Jesus is this striving? He’s usually waiting for me to ask for some help. The funny ironic truth is, when I can’t admit I’m a failure, when I can’t see that I’m a needy desperate soul always in need of help, in need of a Savior, then I can’t relax into His arms, into his care.