I love the Psalms! In a way that’s distinct from the Gospels, the Psalms are a window to the love, compassion, and tenderness of God and a peek into the treasury of his character. The psalms help us to think more deeply about God and the depths of his person.
A perfect example of that is found in Psalm 103. While the entire Psalm is beautiful, verses one through four are particularly powerful. They read:
“Bless the Lord, my soul;
All my being, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, my soul;
And do not forget all his gifts,
Who pardons all your sins
And heals all your ills,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
And crowns you with mercy and compassion….”
The mercy of God! It defies human reason, and confounds the human heart. Do we reach for that mercy through regular visits to the confessional? Do we take his mercy for granted, and avoid going to confession because we believe we don’t need it? Do we avoid the confessional because we doubt God’s mercy?
Remembering that we are all sinners, and that we are all in need of God’s mercy, Psalm 103 shows us a new dimension of that great mercy of God. Because it compares God’s mercy to a crown and the bestowing of God’s mercy to a crowning. It shows us that God’s mercy isn’t just a reset of the score board of our sins, but rather it’s something life-changing. It’s life-changing, just as a crowning changes the life and status of the person being crowned.
A crown first and foremost has material value. It’s expensive. It’s ornate and made of precious materials. A crown is part of the treasury and riches of a kingdom.
But aside from the material value of the crown itself, a crown also has symbolic value. It says something about the person wearing it, that they are at the top of a hierarchy, that they are important enough to be set apart (to be made holy is literally to be set apart!).
The images of a crown and of a crowning in Psalm 103 remind us of something we see in the story of the prodigal son. After squandering his inheritance in “reckless living,” the prodigal son comes to his senses and decides to return to his father to ask for mercy and to be restored. “I have sinned against Heaven and against you….” He says. And more gravely, “I no longer deserve to be called your son.”
But how does his father react to this? “Filled with compassion,” his father embraces him and tells his servants, “Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” (Luke 15:11-32)
The prodigal son is given not just any robe but the finest robe. Not only that but he’s also given a ring for his finger. The significance of the ring isn’t that it’s an ornament or decoration. This compassionate father isn’t putting a ring on his son’s finger for vain reasons. The ring, like a crown, has both a material and symbolic value in this story. A ring signifies a sort of preeminence and a change or upgrade of one’s status (think of a wedding ring, a super bowl ring, or the ring worn by a bishop or pope). Particularly in the ancient world, those who wore rings were important or set apart in some way. Rings, like crowns, were not mere ornaments of the body. They meant something special. They. Meant that the wearer was special.
Bringing this back to Psalm 103, God doesn’t just give us his mercy, he crowns us with it. There is something preeminent about God’s mercy that escapes our understanding, and there is a renewal—not just a restoration—happening when we receive it. Not being content with simply picking up a fallen sinner from the ground or just lifting him out of a pit, God goes above and beyond. He puts a crown on that person’s head! He adorns him and sets him apart. He does infinitely more for us than we deserve by crowning us with his mercy. He does more, perhaps, than we would even think to ask for when we go to confession.
Are you ready to receive God’s mercy in the sacrament of Confession? Are you ready to be crowned with God’s mercy? Are you ready for a rewnewal? Advent and Lent are the perfect seasons for going to confession, but confessions are heard every Saturday. A crowning awaits you every time. Never lose faith or hope in the Mercy of our compassionate God. He wants to crown you with his mercy. Let him!
Confessions are heard at Our Lady of Grace on Saturdays at 11 o’clock, or by appointment. Reconciliation Monday, in this season of Advent will be Monday, December 19th
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His mercy endures forever.
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