Psalm 51 embodies the truth of our human experience and the core of our Biblical faith. We read it at the beginning of Lent in the Ash Wednesday liturgy and now again on the fifth Sunday as we look toward Palm Sunday and Holy Week. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses.”
The Lenten season asks us to pause and look with a terrible honesty at our offenses, the things done and things left undone, the words and deeds that separate us from God, from one another, even from ourselves, and that bring such harm to the entire creation. If that were the whole story it would be cause for profound and crippling despair as we look into our hearts and remember our acts. But in complete trust and faith, with the Psalmist we pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Give me the joy of your saving help. . . .”
The joy of your saving grace. Lent renews in us the confidence in God’s grace that is the very foundation of our faith. The Psalmist assures us that we put our trust in the God who comes to us as the God of mercy, of loving kindness and compassion, the God who looks beyond my failures, my sins, my blindness to the needs of others and acts to heal and strengthen me, “for behold, you look for truth deep within me, and will make me understand wisdom secretly.” Deep within us is the knowledge, the assurance that in forgiving us God frees and strengthens us to bring the joy of God’s saving grace into the world.