Psalm: 51
Gospel: Matthew 11:2-15
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from St. Augustine’s Commentary on the Psalms

Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities (Psalm 51:8-9)

Psalm 51 is one of the “big kanhuna’s” in the entire book of Psalm’s. According to the prologue, this Psalm was sung by David after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan. (2 Sam 12:1-15)

The king is so wracked with guilt that he pleads with God for forgiveness….laying his soul bare before God. David desired from the very depth of his being to be forgiven. You can almost hear the desperation in his voice.

Such intense longing is the subject that Augustine tackles as well. Augustine–like many of the Early Church Fathers–were incredibly practical folk. They knew that it was natural for men and women to have deep desires for all kinds of different things; material possessions, access to good food, healthy relationships with family and friends. These are all natural human needs.

Groaning is also an interesting choice of words here. A groan–while pretty basic–can convey many different emotions. It can express anger, disappointment, sadness, grief, uneasiness, discomfort…..the list goes on. Groaning is something we know how to do from birth, and is a fundamental part of expressing our humanity.

In part, I think that’s why Psalm 51–amongst many others–has captivated so many readers throughout the centuries.

It is a raw Psalm…..a cry from the heart. It is blunt, and ugly, and recognizes the utter failure of a broken man. It is Psalms like this that help us to remember that we are not the only ones who suffer….we are not the only ones who are broken-hearted. We are part of the communion of saints not only by virtue of the hope and joy of our common faith; but also in knowing that we travel together as the Church–the people of God–with all its aches, pains, and difficult times. +