From the earliest days of my spiritual life, Psalm 139 has been a beloved passage. I return to it from time to time, not from a sense of nostalgia, but because the text is so reassuring. I think many believers find this to be so.
Excluding verses 19-22, this psalm is recommended for the Rite of Penance, and rather than focus exclusively on the liturgical aspect of using it, I’ve decided to post four essays that will each focus on an important spiritual theme. How believers might engage with that to assist their celebration of Penance–that will be the focus here.
An all-knowing God loves us.
Lord, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
You sift through my travels and my rest;
with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
Lord, you know it all.
These first four verses remind us that God knows all about us. Does it unnerve or bother? Give comfort or even relief? A God that sits beyond all space and time is a difficult thing around which to wrap one’s head. The psalmist views this with affection, I think:
Behind and before you encircle me
and rest your hand upon me.
These first five verses would make for a good addition to the Liturgy of the Word, and I think verse 5 above makes for a good antiphon.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.
This feeling of awe should steer the penitent away from the realm of reason and rationality. Is it simply better to accept God’s encircling presence? To feel his hand of affirmation and encouragement on our shoulders?