It occurred to me, as I thought about Psalm 50/51, that there may be a good reason why Psalm 138/139 has overtaken it as my favorite.
Psalm 50/51 is the repentant Psalm of a passionate young man who committed adultery, attempted to cover it up and then, failing, had his pregnant mistress’s husband killed. All seemed hunky-dory until God’s foremost prophet of the era pointedly called him on it and pronounced the very tangible coming consequences
Ergo, Psalm 50/51.
Psalm 138/139, in contrast, seems the more subdued repentance of an older man, whose youthful passions are largely gone, who rarely acts in conscious defiance of God’s will, but who appreciates the stunningly capacious scope of hamartia, and is aware of how unaware he is — self-absorbed, thoughtless, petulant at times and in some measure.
When do the sedentary pleasures of retirement become “sloth” (as if it’s easy to work up high dudgeon over sloth), enjoyment of the table “gluttony” (ditto)? When does the now-mostly reflexive appreciation for the female form cease being the “bird flying over the head” and start “nesting in your hair” with your invitation?
Were I a monastic, I might eventually be able to put my finger on things like this, but I’m at a bit of a loss when it comes time for sacramental confession because my “missing the mark” just isn’t all that self-scandalizing. So my priest hears over and over again about my sometimes-foul mouth and vague things and stuff and trying to figure out what cardinal sins are most specifically at play.
Maybe I don’t need to “figure it out”:
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my ways. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 138/139:23-24)
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