I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation

This is one of the seven “penitential psalms’ in the Psalter. It is a prayer of thanksgiving for the removal of sins.

Sr. Mary McGlone

What the ancients called leprosy was a disease that respected no moral code among its victims. It could afflict the good and the bad, the potentate as well as the peasant, working the same havoc on each of their lives. People with leprosy, like people with any other disease, turned to God for healing. When people of deep faith received the cure they sought or simply came to a deeper awareness of God’s love, they would have easily sung the refrain of today’s psalm, rejoicing in how God can turn any sorrow into joy.

The text of Psalm 32 takes the question of healing from disease into the realm of sin and forgiveness. Leprosy is understood as symbolic of sinfulness as well as the isolation we bring on ourselves when we destroy our relationships. Forgiveness implies the healing of those ills. Underneath our Judeo-Christian faith, there is a deep intuition that sin brings death. Although we may not always fully appreciate the logical conclusion that confession and forgiveness therefore bring life and healing, that is what Psalm 32 celebrates.

As we pray this psalm, it is crucial that we recognize the importance of the second stanza. The psalmist says: “I acknowledged my sin … and you took away the guilt.” Open recognition of my sin is the opposite of the scapegoating which blames another for ill. Scapegoating harms the innocent and suppresses the real problem such that it only grows more powerful in darkness and silence. As many as 2,500 years ago, Hebrew wisdom taught that the more we hide our sin, the more power it has over us. The psalmist tells us that confessing our faults is the necessary path to allowing God to take away our guilt. (If you want confirmation of that, ask anyone who has gone through the 12-step program of recovery from addiction.)

The power of this psalm-prayer depends on the depth with which we take in its message. If we ask for help simply to get out of our scrapes, to be rescued from the results of our waywardness, we are asking God to act like a crafty lawyer. Unfortunately, that is not God’s specialty. If, on the other hand, we turn to God to heal the deep causes of our selfishness or fear, we will find that our time of trouble can become a time of salvation. Christ will be waiting to touch us at whatever depth we open to him. When that happens, we will understand what we sing at the Easter Vigil, “O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”

SOURCE: ©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections, 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Commentary Excerpts

Life Recovery Bible

Confessing our sins before God

Psalm 32:1-4 When we get serious about our past sins, admitting each of them and seeking to make amends, we will probably find that most people are willing to forgive us. Making amends for our past failures and reconciling our relationships is an important part of the recovery process.

We see in this psalm that being reconciled to God begins as we admit our sins to him. He will forgive us; we can count on it! When we try to hide our sins from God, our life becomes dysfunctional and miserable. Our inner beings become tied up in knots, and we once again begin to lose control. Why fight it? Confessing our sins to God is the first step toward having a joyful heart.

Psalm 32:5-9 Like David, we need to confess our sins before God and admit them to the people we have wronged. By doing so, we set a good example for others who are also having a hard time admitting their sins to God. We also set our heart free of the destructive grip of guilt and can reestablish the healthy relationships we all need for a full recovery. God wants to give us a full and productive life, but we must respond willingly to his commands.

SOURCE: Content taken from Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Bible Study

Turn to God for Restoration from Sin

by Michal Hunt (Agape Bible Study)

The psalm is attributed to King David after God forgave him of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, which led to her husband’s arranged death (2 Sam chapter 11 and 12:13). It is the second of the seven Penitential Psalms of the Church (see Pss 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130 and 143). The psalmist does not claim to be innocent of his sin. He expresses his repentance and the covering of his guilt through the sacrificial blood ritual of the sin sacrifice (Lev 4:27-35). Through God’s representative, the priest, he makes his offering to God, seeking atonement for his sin and receiving, in God’s name, the priest’s pronouncement of forgiveness (Lev 4:35b). Sin is in both the act and its injurious consequences. The forgiveness comes not through the sacrifice of the animal itself but the humble contrition of the penitent sinner (Ps 51:18-19). The psalmist acknowledges that blessed is the person who experiences God’s mercy and forgiveness (verses 1-2), which allows him to approach God with a sincere heart (verses 5, 11).

In the Church’s Penitential Psalms, we celebrate the happiness of the person who acknowledges that God forgives his sins through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. However, Christ’s blood does not merely cover our sins (as in the old covenants) but washes us clean and restores us to fellowship with God and the community of the faithful. In this connection, Church Father and Archbishop of Constantinople St. John Chrysostom (c. 344/354-407) wrote, quoting from Psalm 32:5 ~ “Shall I remind you of the different paths of repentance? For there are many, each distinct and different, and they all lead to heaven. The first way of penance consists in the accusation and acknowledgment of sin […] For this reason, the psalmist says: ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.’ Therefore, if you condemn in yourself the deed by which you gave offense, the confession will obtain your pardon before the Lord; for the one who condemns his offense makes it more difficult for himself to commit that sin again. Ensure that your conscience is always alert: it will be your private prosecutor, and then there will be no one else to accuse you before the tribunal of God. This is the first and best path of penitence” (De diabolo tentatore, 6).

SOURCE: Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission.


YouTube player

PIANO: Francesca laRosa

YouTube player


YouTube player

PIANO: Anna Romea

YouTube player



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *