' Meditation on Mercy


Meditation on Mercy - Pope Benedict XVI


In his General Audience of 19th October, 2005,  exactly six months since his election to the Chair of Peter, Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to Psalm 129, "out of the depths I cry to thee," which is, he recalled, "one of the best-known and most loved psalms of the Christian tradition." The audience, held in St. Peter's Square, was attended by 40,000 people.

Pointing out how the psalm is known as the "De profundis," the Pope explained that "it is, in the first place, a song of divine mercy and of reconciliation between the sinner and the Lord. ... It opens with a voice arising from the depths of evil and guilt. ... then continues over three stages dedicated to the subject of sin and forgiveness."

Benedict XVI commented on the verses: "If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared," saying: "It is significant that fear, an attitude of respect mixed with love, is generated not by punishment but by forgiveness. More than God's anger, it is His generous and disarming magnanimity that should provoke our holy fear. In fact, God is not an implacable sovereign who condemns the guilty, but a loving Father Whom we must love, not out of fear of punishment, but for His goodness and readiness to forgive."

In the second part of the psalm "watchfulness and hope blossom in the penitent psalmist's heart, along with the certainty that God will pronounce a liberating word and cancel out sin." In the third part, "the personal salvation that the psalmist had originally implored, is extended to the whole community" and "takes root in the historical faith of the people of the Covenant, 'redeemed' by the Lord, not only from Egyptian oppression, but also 'from all iniquities'."

In this way, "from the dark gorge of sin the supplication of the 'De profundis' reaches God's luminous horizon, dominated by 'mercy and redemption,' two of the great characteristics of the God of love."

In concluding remarks, Benedict XVI placed the psalm in the context of Christian tradition, quoting St. Ambrose who, in his Tractate on Penance, writes: "Never lose hope in divine forgiveness, however great your sin. With God there can always be a change of heart, if you acknowledge your offence."