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Lovingly looking within

A Lent Reflection for Saturday, March 16 by Alex Hofmann Macias

Lectionary reading for March 16, 2024: Psalm 51:1-12; Habakkuk 3:2-13; John 12:1-11

Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 51:1-12


Read

Psalm 51:1-12 NRSV

To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba.


1 Have mercy on me, O God,

    according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

    blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

    and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

    and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,

    and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you are justified in your sentence

    and blameless when you pass judgment.

5 Indeed, I was born guilty,

    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6 You desire truth in the inward being;

    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;

    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins,

    and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

    and put a new and right spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from your presence,

    and do not take your holy spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

    and sustain in me a willing spirit.


Reflect 

In Psalm 51, we find David wrestling with the fallout of his actions. From the introduction, we know that this psalm is his response to the story found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 in which David’s attempts at covering up his abuse of power and sexual relationship with Bathsheba result in further deceit and ultimately the death of her husband. Despite the severity of the situation, it is not until the prophet Nathan illustrates it in a parable that David grasps the whole of what he has done. 


In the psalm, we experience David’s remorse and new perspective. He not only feels the pain of his most recent transgression, he more clearly sees the patterns of his life. He writes, “My sin is ever before me” even from when “my mother conceived me.” At the same time, he acknowledges that God is the one who can hold both judgment and forgiveness, and that God’s desire is for David’s own change of heart. In the purity language of his time and culture, he asks for God’s cleansing, forgiveness, and restoration.  


The Lenten season is a time of self-evaluation and reflection on the habits that have formed who we are today. Over the centuries, the forty days leading to Easter have been an intentional time for Christians to reflect, with many opting to give up a habit or choosing to practice another as a way of orienting themselves toward Christ. Like David, sometimes we can reach a very difficult place before we recognize we have unhealthy patterns in our lives, but hopefully, we are paying attention to earlier warning signs. Lent is one opportunity to consider what changes we need to make so that we can more fully live into our identities as new creations in Christ. 


Perhaps you are experiencing the heart ache, stomach sick, or “crushed bones” of knowing that you have hurt someone. Or perhaps you are noticing smaller ways that you have acted primarily out of self-interest or otherwise gotten off course in your relationship with God and others. When we take the time to pause and explore our own patterns of thought or behavior, we are vulnerable with God and open ourselves to the possibility of growth and love. This Lent, may you know, as David did, that you can dare to face the “truth of the inward being” with the confidence that God’s love is unwavering.


Respond 

Practice the Examen from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola:

Close your eyes and become aware of God’s presence with you.

Ask God to give you the eyes to see what God wants you to see.

Review in your mind the events of the day and how you felt about them.

Choose one of the day’s experiences and reflect on how you responded in the moment.

Accept God’s grace and orient yourself in God’s love for tomorrow.   


Rest 

Loving and compassionate God, hold us with tenderness as we explore our own habits, motivations, and missteps. Help us to see ourselves more clearly and to open ourselves to the possibility of change so that we can live more authentically as Jesus followers. Thank you for your steadfast love.    


About the Author 


Alex Hofmann Macias has been in theological education administration for over fifteen years. A native of Tucson, Arizona, she now lives just outside of Chicago with her husband and two children. Alex loves international films, good food, novels, laughing, and singing really loud in the car. She serves as Director of Academic Programming at North Park Theological Seminary.  

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