4/1/2020 – Reflection

Reflections on the Seven Penitential Psalms: Psalm 32

By Graziano Marcheschi, M.A. D.Min

Psalm 32 —Remission of Sin

Sin is inevitable. Because we fall short of the glory of God, because sin abounds in the world—though grace abounds the more!—it is inevitable that we humans fall into sin. But faith tells us sin is not the final word, and the author of this psalm knows that truth well.

The Psalms have endured for millennia because they are so personal and real; sometimes, so real they’re raw. They name our experience because they come out of lived experience. The author grasps the deep truth of the old maxim, “Confession is good for the soul.” He understands the value of confession because he first tried to resist it. He hid his faults, sealed his heart and lips and would not speak his sins, but the result was agony and groaning all the day. Because he “kept silent,” his “bones wasted away.” Would that we, too, could feel the weight of our sins upon us. Would that they would drive us to our knees so we, too, could experience the grace and the unburdening, the freedom and the joy the psalmist finds at last.

Finally, he says, finally “I declared my sin to you;/ my guilt I did not hide.” And rather than shame or wagging fingers, the psalmist finds relief. Read again the opening line: “Blessed is the one whose fault is removed,/ whose sin is forgiven.” Notice that blessing is given not to the blameless or the sinless (they don’t exist!), but to the sinner who, through confession, has had his sin removed. What’s more, in the Bible, the removal of sin removes theeffectsof sin on us. That’s why the psalmist’s frustration, fading enthusiasm, and loss of joy vanish the moment he experiences God’s mercy.

Therefore every loyal person should pray to God, he says, because God longs to shelter us and surrounds us with shouts of joy. But sin remains inevitable. And because we are so often dumb as oxen and stubborn as mules, God admonishes us to be docile and humble, putting our trust in him so he can shower his mercy on us.

Questions for Reflection:

Fewer Catholics today avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Why do you think that is? If the psalmist’s experience is typical, the floodgates of grace open once we admit and repent our sins. What would help you be more open to the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Do you think talk of sin is helpful or is it better to speak instead of God’s love and mercy? Does one make sense without the other?

Do you approach God with confidence or temerity?

3/30/2020 – Reflection

Psalm 6 —Prayer in Distress

The Psalms stand against the human impulse to merit God’s love and mercy through goodness or obedience. A part of us clings to the naïve notion that God’s love for us is tied to our behavior: good behavior earns God’s love and acceptance; bad behavior means divine rejection. That’s a diabolical lie and the psalmist knows it. Instead, eyes wide open and looking in the mirror, the psalmist readily admits his sin and begs God’s mercy anyway. Sin darkens human vision and alienates the soul from God, self, and others. Sin’s greatest danger is its ability to make us doubt God’s love and willingness to forgive. The psalmist’s saving grace is his refusal to let sin drive that wedge between him and the Lord; in fact, it’s his painful awareness of his sin that draws the psalmist nearer. We often think we can approach God only when we’re “good” and have our lives in order. But it’s sin God rejects, not the sinner. The psalmist knows if we waited for a “worthy” time, we’d never pray.  So we don’t defer prayer; we don’t wait till God “is in a better mood.” At work, we might rely on a spike in sales to incline the boss to mercy, but our God has never been that kind of God. Scripture tells us to pray whenever there is the need. And need is greatest when we are mired in sin.

In his mercy, God does not spare us the consequences of sin. To spur our prayer, to draw us closer when we might otherwise sulk or hide, God lets sin impact our lives.  Sin’s consequence is not God’s punishment, but the natural result of our decisions that, in his love, God uses for our good (if we let him). The psalmist is well aware that his own sin has brought both physical distress and the attack of enemies into his life. Yet he prays unashamedly. As a child who has disregarded a parent’s injunction to not venture far from home comes running back when the playground bully threatens, the psalmist knows where home is. He knows where to find the strong arms and loving embrace of a God who eventually would send his own Son to save us—not when we were finally worthy, but while we were still steeped in sin. 

Questions for Reflection:

St. Paul says that God “proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). So why do we keep thinking that God will love us only when we stop sinning?

On the other hand, does knowledge of God’s unconditional love mean we needn’t worry about sinning? Is the destructiveness of sin related to the effects it has on God or to the effects it has on us?

Besides petitionary prayer, there are prayers of praise, thanksgiving, adoration, etc. Does a prayer of petition, asking for mercy and the forgiveness of sin, seem to you like a lower, less enlightened form of prayer?  How can you combine petition and praise?

©2020 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

3/26/2020 – Reflection

One of the dangers many encounter in our modern technological world is that of constant noise.  We are easily bombarded with chatter all day long.  It could be through the radio, TV, Internet, or the ceaseless conversation of another.  Rarely do we find times of great silence.  As a result, when silence is offered us, we often look to fill that silence immediately.  But is this wise?  Is it good to occupy our minds day and night with noise?  Though every person will be different, especially depending upon their vocation, every person does need times of regular silence and solitude.  Without this it is hard to be recollected and to hear the Voice of God.  God speaks in the silence and He desires to communicate to you through this sacred language.  Do not run from silence for, if you do, you will be running from the Voice of God (See Diary #1476).

Try to take some time today alone in silence.  If you find that it is difficult to do even for five minutes, then this is a sign that there is too much noise in your life.  Entering silence can bring on a form of “withdrawal” from noise.  We tend to be comfortable with it as we are entertained all day long.  But try to take time in silence today.  Resolve to do so as long as you can.  Turn off the radio in the car, go for a walk, or sit and pray without thinking or speaking, just being quiet in the presence of God.  The gift of silent communication with God is a gift that you need and you will learn more from silence than from hours of the noise of the world.

Lord, I desire to seek You in the silence.  I choose to listen to Your quiet promptings of love spoken in this way.  Give me the wisdom and strength I need to dedicate myself to moments of quiet every day.  May these moments bring clarity to my soul and understanding to my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

3/25/2020 – Spiritual Tips & Ideas

1. Family rosary at home for Coronavirus victims

2. Praying the divine mercy chaplet for an end to the pandemic

3. Read the daily readings Magnificat

4. Live-stream the Mass (many places are offering this)

5. Pray the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours)

6. Use social media to share your how your family or community is praying

7. Host a video live-stream for members of your friends to pray the rosary

8. Take time on Fridays to pray the stations of the cross on your own, connecting your struggles with isolation with Jesus’ solitude in carrying his cross to Calvary Download the Stations Of The Cross booklet

9. Watch a movie about the life of Christ and spend time reflecting on this image of Jesus and what it can teach you about your faith and your life

3/24/2020 – Mary, Undoer Of Knots Novena

DOWNLOAD THE NOVENA (printable .pdf)

The COVID-19 pandemic is truly global, and while you may not have symptoms…you’re feeling its effects. Are you missing the sacraments? Do you yearn for community? Are you uncertain about your job or a family member’s?

Social distancing, widespread quarantines, and the scramble to get food and essentials have severely impacted our lives. And now, many churches and dioceses have canceled public Masses. The problems we’re facing—physically and spiritually—seem insurmountable.

It is in times like these that Our Lady wants you to hand over the “knots” of your life so that she can untangle them with her own capable hands. Unemployment, anxiety, spiritual hunger…there’s no knot she can’t unravel.

Gretchen Filz, O.P. ©2017–2020 The Catholic Company


Will be making this month’s issue available for free to help people pray from home. To view online, click here.

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Liturgical Press is making its resources free online, which includes Liturgy of the Hours, Mass readings/prayers, etc. To access, click here.

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