JOHN PAUL II
1. Every week, in the Liturgy of Lauds for Friday, we pray Psalm 50, the Miserere, the pentitential Psalm, that is so much beloved, sung and meditated upon. It is a hymn raised to the merciful God by the repentant sinner. We have already had the chance in a previous catechesis to give a general overview of this great prayer. First of all, the Psalmist enters the dark region of sin to bring into it the light of human repentance and divine forgiveness (cf. vv. 3-11). Then he goes on to exalt the gift of divine grace, that transforms and renews the repentant sinner's spirit and heart: this is a place of light, full of hope and confidence (cf. vv. 12-21).
Now there comes into play the personal conscience of the sinner who is ready to perceive his wrongdoing honestly. This experience involves freedom and responsibility, and leads him to admit that he has broken a bond and has preferred to build a life different from that of the divine Word. The result is a radical decision to change. All this is contained in the verb "recognize", that in Hebrew implies not just an intellectual agreement but also a vital choice.
Unfortunately, many do not make this step as Origen warns: "There are some who after sinning are absolutely at peace and give no further thought to their sin; nor are they troubled by the knowledge of the evil they have committed but live as though nothing had happened. Such people would certainly not be able to say:
my sin is ever before me. Instead, when, after committing a sin, one feels miserable and troubled by it, nagged by remorse, tormented without respite and undergoing inner revolt in his spirit when he tries to deny it, one rightly exclaims: my sins give my bones no peace.... Thus when we set before the eyes of our heart the sins we have committed, when we look at them one by one, recognize them, blush and repent for what we have done, then, overcome with remorse and terrified, we can rightly say that there is no peace in our bones on account of our sins ..." (Origen, Omelie sui Salmi,
Florence, 1991, p. 277-279 [Homilies on the Psalms]). The admission and consciousness of sin are the fruit of a sensitivity acquired through the light of God's Word.
Sin is not just a psychological and social matter, but an event that corrodes the relationship with God, violating his law, refusing his plan in history and overturning his set of values, "putting darkness for light and light for darkness", in other words, "calling evil good and good evil" (cf. Is 5,20).
Before finally injuring man, sin is first and foremost a betrayal of God. The words the prodigal son says to his father, whose love is so abundant, capture it well: "Father, I have sinned against Heaven (that is, against God) and before you" (Lk 15,21).
It is still clear, according to the text of our Psalm, that evil is rooted in man's innermost depths, it is inherent in his historical reality, so the request for the mediation of divine grace is crucial. The power of God's love exceeds that of sin, the forceful river of evil is less powerful than the fruitful water of forgiveness: "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom 5,20).
As we will have the chance to discover later on, when we return to this Psalm and the later verses, the confession of sin and the consciousness of one's misery do not lead to terror or the nightmare of judgement, but indeed, to the hope of purification, liberation and the new creation.
In fact God saves us, "not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour" (Ti 3,5-6).
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I extend a special greeting to the young people of Toronto, gathered at the university in a television link-up with the young people of the University La Sapienza in Rome. Dear friends, I hope to see many Canadians at the World Youth Day. Coming together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you will commit yourselves to being the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's audience, especially those from England, Norway, Sweden, India, South Korea, Canada and the United States of America, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Saviour.
At the end of the General Audience, John Paul II asked everyone present to pray for the success of the Special Session of the General Assembly of the UN on children. The three day summit is focusing on the improvement of children's situation worldwide.
Today in New York the General Assembly of the UN is beginning a special session on children. The important meeting calls attention to the scourges that continue to afflict little children, the precious but also vulnerable treasure of the human family. I am thinking of the wars, the poverty, the abuses and injustice of every kind of which they are the victims.
In these days in which representatives of countries from around the world are meeting to reflect on the conditions in which little children have to live, I invite everyone to pray for the success of these deliberations. I also hope that this important meeting may call forth a renewed commitment of the international community in favour of children, so that every type of social action that affects them may be inspired by a genuine promotion of human dignity and full respect of their fundamental rights.