At first glance, Psalm 130 seemed a bit dismal to me: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!" If that isn't the plea of a desperate soul, I don't know what is.
When I was in high school choir, we sang a piece called "De Profundis" based on this psalm, and there was no mistaking it for anything but a downbeat, somber song.
However, after reading further in the psalm, I realized that this is really a message of hope, of forgiveness. I'm especially struck by verses three to four. "If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered."
Wow, what good news! If my salvation hinged on my lack of faults, I would be in serious trouble, as would most of us.
When I was younger, I viewed God as more of a cool, judging God than the wonderful, merciful Father that He is.
I once heard the analogy that sin builds a wall between God and humans. In my mind, I imagined that after committing a sin, there was this massive, brick wall separating me from God.
With this image, I figured I could pray to God, but it was impossible for him hear me with this insurmountable barrier between us. Only after I'd had a chance to go to reconciliation and get this wall torn down would God be willing to communicate with me again.
While I still recognize that the Sacrament of Reconciliation has an awesome, very essential role in repairing our relationships with God, I think that the image of the wall prevented me from understanding the merciful, redemptive God described in Psalm 130.
True, we are stuck for the time being in the depths of sin and struggle here on earth. However, God knows this and is always waiting with open arms to take us back when we fall away.
I think a better image is that we turn our backs on God when we sin, but He's always standing there with open arms to receive us, as soon as we turn ourselves back around right way and run to Him.
This is still a struggle for me. It's tempting, once our backs are turned on God, to stay turned away out of shame. But at that point, it helps for me to remember that He is not marking iniquities, rather offering salvation with unconditional forgiveness.
It's reassuring that all of the readings this weekend focus on dying to sin and rising with Christ, not rising because of a lack of sin.
Nicole Helmke is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in biology. She sings in the choir at St. Paul University Catholic Center.
St. Paul's Web site is www.stpaulscc.org
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