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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Probe me God: A reflection on Psalm 139

Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mothers womb.  I give you thanks that I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

What a beautiful Psalm!  These words inspire me in true wonder and awe of the Lord, and with great gratitude and appreciation of the creation of each and every person.  It was read on the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, who proclaimed a baptism of repentance, and this post is looking at Psalm 139 through the eyes of John. We are often so deformed in sin that we need to hear the words of the prophet anew, and understand how deep this hope of renewal goes. And, I don't know about you, but I need the humility to remember that, yes I am good because I have been created in His image and likeness, but I am also fallen.  I don't want to live easy with my sinfulness, it is destroying me.  I want my hope and my regeneration to begin today.  It is easy to affirm someone who is deeply enmeshed in degrading sin as a child of God, and then leave them there, but when the shame bubbles up again, unless that individual has a higher and stronger faith, he or she may simple be affirmed to sit in death's shadow.

  At the birth of his son Zachariah breaks out with a spirit-filled canticle:
"And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of  their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us, to shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow" Luke 1:76-79
I, who have been made so wonderfully, and with such a high destiny, I am often mired in darkness of sin, and cowering in the deathly shadow of guilt.  So,even if I know that I am a wonderful creation in the image and likeness of God, still I am overwhelmed by the devastation that is wrought by sin and concupiscence in my soul. I am stalked by past guilt, hurt and rejections.  I am put down by current tendencies to envy and tenacious false identities. And the calloused and dark wounds in my heart quietly prompt deep suspicions that subtly corrupt my motives!  How can I ever recover?  And I live in a time that is both highly judgmental on a superficial level, yet very complacent about enduring with those who struggle with truly devastating sin, and the dark shame and anger that hide with it. I need to deepen my shallow hopes in redemption.  Each one of us needs to encourage others to allow the Lord to probe us deeply, again and again. We need to be humble so we can let the Spirit blow into the god forsaken areas of our souls.

So here is the rest of the Psalm above:

Psalm 139:2-16;23
You know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord you know it all. Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach. Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too. If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast. If I say, "Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light" Darkness is not dark for you and night shines as the day, Darkness and light are but one. You formed my inmost being; you knot me in my mother's womb. I praise you, so wonderful you made me; wonderful are your works. My very self you knew; my bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth. You saw me unformed......Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my concerns. See if my way is crooked then lead me in the ancient path."
Awhile ago I was meditating on this passage during my Adoration hour, I was praying about a situation that had recently been in the news in which God's great mercy and healing seemed to be missing.  It was a situation in which a lonely, rejected individual committed a ghastly crime.  This young man who eventually took his own life was filled with rage and contempt for himself, and for a society that offered him so little in terms of transcendence and ultimate hope that his existence was not merely an accident.  I began to think about the many, many people who are lost in the darkness of sin, or weighed down by terrible shame, yet even in our mostly Christian culture, seem to be without hope of redemption.  Many of these people struggle with relating to others, sometimes as a result of inborn tendencies, or from traumas that were not of their making.  They are isolated, lonely and filled with a hopeless rage.   I looked back at my journal where I quoted the first lines of the Psalm:  You know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord you know it all.  Beside it wrote: "really?  WHERE ARE YOU!"  next to it.  After that I had scribbled a line from the Matt Maher song, You Were On The Cross:

"Where were you when sin stole my innocence?
Where were you when I was ashamed?
 Hiding in a life I wish I'd never made"

It is hard for anyone to wholeheartedly believe that the Lord cares "when I sit and when I stand" or that "I am wonderfully made", when we are acutely aware of how little our souls resembles the high dignity and glory they were created for.  And in the case I was praying about this young man knew how deformed he was, but he had no hope of being reformed because he had no hope that he was created by God and that God willed him to be reformed.  It is even harder in our cynical times of superficial love and sentimental catch phrases to awaken a sense of repentance that is more than just self pity!  And there are still many who are in darkness and in death's shadow, unaware that the tender mercy of our God can and will penetrate anything. We are the ones who need to make them aware, we need to pray for the daybreak from on high to break out upon them, wherever they are!  We are to follow in the footsteps of the Baptist!

The Psalm now begins to whisper to me:  Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! Repent, for the powers that would enslave you have no power over Him. Repent, for God has never left you; though it may be too dark for you to see Him, He sees you. His hand is upon you! Do not be too proud to allow Him to show you your darkest sins, they are not dark to Him. He knows what they have done to you. Do not be afraid to reveal your most depraved desires or your most wretched fears, he is greater and stronger than any of them.  He can retrieve you from the Sheol in your soul that imprisons you.  Do not be afraid of the chaos sin has stirred up, for His Spirit is with you, encircling you and His mighty wind blows over the dark and formless wastelands in each of our souls, reforming and renewing them. Repent, for the kingdom is at hand!  His light will illuminate the way.

Then I underlined the last line, as a daily prayer for myself, and for many others who do not yet know to pray it. "Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my concerns. See if my way is crooked then lead me in the ancient path." 

  Here is the refrain to You Were On The Cross, the song quoted above:

You were on the cross.
You were there in all of my suffering,
You were there in doubt and in fear,
I am waiting on the dawn to reappear.

Go out and en-kindle a hope that salvation and reformation are at hand; a hope that no one is an accident or beyond His tender mercy; a hope that is beyond all the sorrows of this world!

Peace and grace,

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