Every year as we gather for Mass on Ash Wednesday, we hear the prophet Joel calling us to “rend our hearts.” Then we pray Psalm 51. Five times we repeat the response: ”Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned” as we utter this prayer of repentance—a prayer that the church urges us to carry in our “rent” hearts right up to Good Friday.
As its opening indicates, Jewish tradition ascribes Psalm 51 to King David, seeing it as his prayer of deep repentance for two sins that could...
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