Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Meditation on Psalm 32

Psalm 32 Page 624, BCP
Beati quorum
1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,
and whose sin is put away!
2 Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,
and in whose spirit there is no guile!
3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,
because of my groaning all day long.
4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and did not conceal my guilt.
6 I said," I will confess my transgressions to the LORD."
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.
7 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble;
when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.
8 You are my hiding-place;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
9 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go;
I will guide you with my eye.
10 Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding;
who must be fitted with bit and bridle,
or else they will not stay near you."
11 Great are the tribulations of the wicked;
but mercy embraces those who trust in the LORD.
12 Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the LORD;
           shout for joy, all who are true of heart. 

In the Roman Catholic Church, a sacrament is defined as “an outward sign of inward grace.” The outward sign involved in Confession is the absolution via the priest, but the inward sign is the reconciliation of the sinner with God. It is that inward sign that is celebrated in this psalm. In the Roman Church, regular confession of sin (known as the Sacrament of Penance) to a priest is required at least once a year, and after confession, penance is usually assigned. There are three things required: a spirit of contrition; a full confession of sins, including repeated occasions of the same sin; and being willing to make restitution or amends via some action (normally referred to as “penance.” In this psalm we see the first two of these elements, although no mention is made of specific acts done to restore a sense of justice. It is that third element that eventually led to the Protestant Reformation, as it became possible to purchase indulgences from the Church—these were based upon the idea that good deeds could make up for sins one had committed on the Great Balance Sheet in the Sky. Luther argued that works alone could not atone for sin—only the free gift of grace from God through faith in Jesus could lead to forgiveness of sins. Anglicans are not required to go to private confession, although individuals may make arrangements to confess to a priest if they feel it necessary. Like Protestants, we generally hold that we can confess our sins directly to God, as is described in this psalm.

One could argue that this psalm supports that belief—after confession of the sins to God, the psalmist was filled with a feeling of reconciliation and forgiveness, for which he gives profound thanks in this psalm.

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