Saint Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Optional Memorial)
A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. (Psalm 51:19)
When was the last time you had to eat humble pie? You know, admitting your own mistakes and shortcomings to someone else. This is one way to understand the setting for today’s psalm. It portrays King David’s repentance after the prophet Nathaniel confronted him about his sins of adultery and murder. He is caught in his lies and violence, and he has to own up to them.
So how does David respond? With a combination of heartfelt repentance and deep confidence in God’s mercy. He trusted that God would not ignore “a heart contrite and humbled” (Psalm 51:19).
How do you react when you are brought face-to-face with your sins or shortcomings? It’s tempting to get defensive and to throw that humble pie back in someone’s face: It’s your fault, not mine! Or maybe you overplay your guilt: How could I have done that—again? Will I ever get past this sin?
God doesn’t want us to swing in either direction. Rather, he wants us to turn toward him, as David did. He promises not to turn us away. He won’t accuse us or condemn us; instead, he’ll welcome us, forgive us, and embrace us. It’s like the scene in the parable of the prodigal son: the father is waiting with joyful and eager expectation, filled with longing for his younger son to return home. When he does return, the boy begins, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you,” but before he can finish even one sentence, his father throws his arms around him (Luke 15:21).
The next time you find yourself holding a piece of humble pie, put the pie down and run to your Father. Don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed by a guilty conscience. But don’t try to shift the blame and justify yourself. Simply say, “Father, I know I have sinned. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Remember, God delights in your repentance, not because he wants to condemn you or drown you in guilt, but because he is eager to forgive you and welcome you back. He will never turn you away.
“Thank you, Father, for your merciful embrace. Help me to run toward you every time I stumble and fall.”
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