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?

Do you find harmony or dissonance between

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