Have Mercy on me…

The Responsorial Psalm from today’s Mass on the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time is probably one of my favorites for when I desire a conversion of heart and need to repent of something horrible and get right with God.

Psalm 51:3-19;

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.
Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my offense; my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight That you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn.
True, I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.
Still, you insist on sincerity of heart; in my inmost being teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow.
Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my guilt.
A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit.
I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you.
Rescue me from death, God, my saving God, that my tongue may praise your healing power.
Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.
For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.

Carefully go over each line of this excerpt and imagine it having a healing affect on you. You are a sinner, broken, bruised, come to be made aware of your sins. (The psalm was written by King David after his infidelity with Bathsheba was exposed. He had her husband killed in battle so he could be with her.) You feel that God Himself has rejected you because of what you did, or had done with your life up to this point.

This would be a good prayer to say when you complete your 4th Step moral inventory if you are in a 12 Step program. (The Fourth Step: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” From Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition, New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001; p.59. Also known as “The Big Book”)

The psalm describes a soul blackened with shame and guilt over wrongdoing, and describes a process where he turns to God, begs forgiveness and ask God to transform him into something he wasn’t before. All that the souls offers is sorrow, remorse and contrition, nothing else can make up for the deed, the soul offers up its own pain as a sacrifice.

This is basically all that we, as sobering alcoholics have to offer. We have nothing after we hit bottom and painfully turned our lives around. All we have is the wreckage of our life and the pain emanating from it. The healing of our pain by God due to our sincere remorse and contrition heals our souls and allows us to no longer be defined by our past.

Sacramental confession with a priest is necessary to remove the sins from your soul, but saying Psalm 51 helps prime you for that part of your healing.

I always feel better after saying this prayer, and I find the courage I need to go to Confession. When I say the psalm, I say it slowly and many times repeating a particular verse until I “feel something”, then I continue. If needed, I say the psalm again.

No matter how bad your sins, no matter how scarlet they are, there is no sin that God cannot forgive. Your sins are not stronger than God’s mercy. There is no debating this. No matter what you have done, God can and will, forgive.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"