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Graziano Marcheschi, M.A. D.Min.,author, lecturer, and storyteller, is the Executive Director of University Ministry at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois. Formerly, he served as Director of Ministerial Resource Development and Archdiocesan Director of Lay Ministry Formation for the Archdiocese of Chicago. He has been adjunct faculty at a number of institutions, including the Institute of Pastoral Studies, Loyola University Chicago. He has authored books on Scripture and proclamation skills as well audio and video works and a collection of stories and poetry, Wheat & Weeds and the Wolf of Gubbio,and he contributed commentaries on the Pentateuch, Gospels and Acts for the Catholic Bible, Personal Study Edition (Oxford University Press). He created and presented a major performance-prayer event in Phoenix, AZ during the 1987 pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II. Graziano hosts a local cable-TV program, The Church, the Cardinal and You and co-hosts the Archdiocesan morning radio program Catholic Community of Faith. He and his wife, Nancy, have two daughters and a son.
by Graziano Marcheschi, M.A. D.Min
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.
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?
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