Meditations on the Psalms, The Christian Life #8, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox

cover of the ebook 'Meditations on the Psalms, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox'

Psalm 50

When Nathan the prophet came to him after he had sinned with Bethsabee. Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy. And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me.

To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee: that thou mayst be justified in thy words and mayst overcome when thou art judged. For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me. For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made manifest to me. Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness: and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice.

Turn away thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels. Cast me not away from thy face; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit. I will teach the unjust thy ways: and the wicked shall be converted to thee.

Deliver me from blood, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol thy justice. O Lord, thou wilt open my lips: and my mouth shall declare thy praise. For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Deal favourably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up.

Then shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.

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Contrition for Sin

First Point. Motives for asking forgiveness. On God’s side, there is no motive I can appeal to in demanding pardon except his own infinite mercy: what but infinite mercy could be com mensurate with the injury my sin has done him? Once more, after so many repentances and so many resolutions, I must appeal to the same source of grace. What can I do but acknowledge my misery? Would that the consciousness of it might never leave me. It is not that I have failed, that I have disappointed myself, that I am ashamed of men’s judgment, even of the priest’s in the confessional: it is the insult to the Divine Majesty, the soiling of the Divine image in me, the thwarting of the Divine Will for me, that constitutes my sin. Thou, God, hast seen me, and I have forgotten thy presence: thou hast warned me, and I have neglected and justified thy warnings. True, I have inherited from my first parents a fallen nature; but thou, in thy faithfulness, didst reveal thyself anew to me and strengthen me, through my Saviour’s Passion, with the hidden treasures of thy grace, and yet – I have sinned.

Second Point. Prayer for remission of sin. As the High Priest sprinkled the people with the blood of victims, so the Blood of my Saviour is an eternal fountain of pardon; wash me in this Blood, that my discoloured soul may be clean once more. Oh how gracious are the words of pardon which thou, through the priest, wilt bestow on me! According to the measure in which I now humble myself with true contrition, thou wilt gladden my heart with fresh grace. My sins, though there be yet a penalty to pay for them, will no longer be the object of thy indignant regard; the sentence decreed against me will be annulled as with a stroke of the pen; more than this, thou wilt convey to me in the sacrament of Penance active grace, to resist my sins in the future and live more worthily of thee. O may I never merit the dreadful judgment of being cast away for ever from before thee! Inspire me always with thy Holy Spirit, that I may avoid such condemnation; renew and strengthen in me the grace bestowed on me in baptism by my Saviour’s Death.

Third Point. Resolve for the future and prayer for grace. From henceforth I desire nothing better than to live worthily of these benefits, and set an example of justice towards my neighbour and piety towards thee. Without thy pardon, indeed, I could do nothing; I should be like the blood-guilty outlaw who has no City of Refuge to flee to. But with the help of thy grace to move and inspire me, I will begin to live to thy glory; not by a multitude of offerings, not by performing heroic sacrifices (though it would be my bounden duty, didst thou require it), but by the submission of a humbled will, by a heart that has learned, through experience of contrition, to distrust its own strength. The defences of my soul are, indeed, sadly laid waste, but thy power can raise them anew, stronger than before; and under this protection, restored to a state of grace, I will endeavour to do thee the service that is thy due, offering all my best thoughts and actions with the sole intention of thy glory.

Acts: Acknowledgment of sin, full contrition, resolution to live for God’s glory.

Colloquy with the Lamb of God, who has washed us in his Blood.