March 9 / Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you; save your servant who trusts in you.You are my God; Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all day long. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my cry of supplication.~Ps 86:1-6
An important element of maturing to full adulthood is learning how to advocate for ourselves. Sooner or later, we are going to have to lay out our merits or defend our position or advance our cause through solid and persuasive argumentation and assertiveness. While self-advocacy is both necessary and salutary in our day-to-day comings and goings, it is unnecessary in our relationship with God. And yet we all do it, praying to God that he fulfill our specific requests because we’ve been especially charitable this week, or have a profound need, or because we’re deeply unhappy and require relief. And in order to persuade God, we lay out the case for support almost as if we were litigators — just as the psalmist does in these stately and lyrical verses from Psalm 86. Methodically he proceeds: six consecutive pleas, six reasons why. “Answer me, preserve me, be gracious to me, listen to me, O God — because I am needy, because I am devoted to you, because I cry all the day long, because I lift my soul up to you.” So, too, do we present our exhibits to God: our needs, hardships and trials; our merits, virtues and devotion. But the truth about God’s mercy is this: It is a divine gift, not a human attainment. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, the psalmist acknowledges, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you. Ultimately, whatever the strength of the case we plead, forgiveness is the gracious gift of the God who loved us into being and desires only our good.
Gracious and generous God, may it be your will to bestow your overflowing mercy and loving forgiveness upon me, poor as I am.Amen.
For today’s readings, click here.
[Editors’ note: This is part of a daily Lenten reflection series. Sign up for our America Today newsletter to receive each reflection every day in your inbox.]