[Lenten psalms are powerful prayers. Tom Quiner, composer of THE FIRE AND THE MERCY, The Pentecost Musical, has set over 100 psalms to music, including all of the psalms included in the Catholic lectionary for this Lenten cycle. This blog will post his commentaries on each of these psalms throughout Lent.]
David’s life spiraled out of control.
The King of Israel violated the Ninth Commandment by coveting his neighbor’s wife.
This led to his violation of the Sixth Commandment when he acted on his unholy impulses and had an illicit encounter with Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, whom he impregnated.
Compounding the drama, David violated the Fifth Commandment when he had his lover’s husband killed to cover up his transgression.
What a mess: Lust. Adultery. Murder.
When the prophet Nathan held the King accountable for his unholy trinity of sin, David confessed that he had “sinned against the Lord.”
For seven days, he fasted, laying prostrate on the ground.
Psalm 51 expresses David’s gut-wrenching confession; his plea for God to save him from death; and his pledge to lead sinners back to God.
This is a hopeful psalm, for God forgives the contrite heart. It is a beautiful expression of our desire to ‘get right with God.’ That’s why it is sung on Ash Wednesday. It is the perfect prayer to launch the Lenten season. An alternate response, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” is also used in Lent.
As Pope John Paul II reminds us,
God can “blot out, wash and cleanse” the sin confessed with a contrite heart. The Lord says, through the voice of Isaiah, even if “your sins are scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool”.
Read through the text before singing it. Embrace its meaning. Savor the heartfelt contrition expressed by David.
Not only does he atone for his sins, he vows to God to be an evangelist to others so they, too, might draw closer to their Lord.
Sinners are the best evangelizers. The more egregious the sin, the more the sinner recognizes the power of God’s mercy. Let this psalm transform your Lenten experience. Ask someone who’s fallen away from church to come back.
Please … be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
[Would you like a copy of the musical setting for this psalm? Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can email you back a copy.]