Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
“Lord, hear my voice”
October 19, 2005
Dear Brothers and
1. One of the
Psalms best-known and best-loved in Christian tradition has just
been proclaimed: the De profundis, as it was called
from its beginning in the Latin version. With the Miserere,
it has become one of the favourite penitential Psalms of popular
Over and above its
use at funerals, the text is first and foremost a hymn to divine
mercy and to the reconciliation between the sinner and the Lord, a
God who is just but always prepared to show himself "a merciful and
gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity,
continuing his kindness for a thousand generations, and forgiving
wickedness and crime and sin" (Ex 34: 6-7).
For this very
reason, our Psalm is inserted into the liturgy of Vespers for
Christmas and for the whole Octave of Christmas, as well as in the
liturgy of the Fourth Sunday of Easter and of the Solemnity of the
2. Psalm 130
opens with a voice that rises from the depths of evil and sin (cf.
vv. 1-2). The person who is praying addresses the Lord in the first
person: "I cry to you, O Lord". The Psalm then develops in three
parts, dedicated to the subject of sin and forgiveness. The Psalmist
first of all addresses God directly, using the "Tu": "If
you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord, who would survive? But
with you is found forgiveness: for this we revere you" (vv. 3-4).
It is significant
that reverent awe, a sentiment in which respect and love are
mingled, is not born from punishment but from forgiveness. Rather
than sparking his anger, God's generous and disarming magnanimity
must kindle in us a holy reverence. Indeed, God is not an inexorable
sovereign who condemns the guilty but a loving father whom we must
love, not for fear of punishment, but for his kindness, quick to
3. At the centre of
the second part is the "I" of the person praying, who no longer
addresses the Lord in the first person but talks about him: I trust
in the Lord. "My soul is waiting for the Lord, I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord more than watchman for daybreak"
(vv. 5-6). Expectation, hope, the certainty that God will speak a
liberating word and wipe away the sin are now blossoming in the
heart of the repentant Psalmist.
The third and last
part in the development of the Psalm extends to the whole of Israel,
to the people, frequently sinful and conscious of the need for God's
saving grace: "Let Israel... count on the Lord. Because with the
Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption; Israel indeed he
will redeem from all its iniquity" (vv. 7-8).
salvation that the praying person implores at the outset is now
extended to the entire community. The Psalmist's faith is grafted on
to the historical faith of the people of the Covenant, "redeemed" by
the Lord not only from the distress of the Egyptian oppression but
"from all its iniquity". Only think that it is we who are now the
chosen people, the People of God. And our faith grafts us on to the
common faith of the Church. In this very way it gives us the
certainty that God is good to us and sets us free from our sins.
Rising from the
shadowy vortex of sin the supplication of the De profundis
reaches God's shining horizon where "mercy and fullness of
redemption" are dominant, two great characteristics of God who is
4. Let us now
entrust ourselves to the meditation that Christian tradition has
woven into this Psalm. Let us choose St Ambrose's words: in his
writings he often recalled the reasons that motivated him to invoke
pardon from God.
"We have a good
Lord who wants to forgive everyone", he recalled in his Treatise
on Penance, and he added: "If you want to be justified, confess
your fault: a humble confession of sins untangles the knot of
faults.... You see with what hope of forgiveness you are impelled to
make your confession" (2, 6, 40-41: Sancti Ambrosii Episcopi
Mediolanensis Opera [SAEMO], XVII, Milan-Rome, 1982, p. 253).
Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, repeating the same
invitation, the Bishop of Milan expressed his wonder at the gifts
that God added to his forgiveness: "You see how good God is and
ready to pardon sins: not only does he give back everything he had
taken away, but he also grants unhoped for gifts". Zechariah, John
the Baptist's father, lost the ability to speak because he did not
believe the angel, but subsequently, in pardoning him, God granted
him the gift of prophecy in the hymn of the Benedictus: "The one who
could not speak now prophesies", St Ambrose said, adding that "it is
one of the greatest graces of the Lord, that those who have denied
him should confess belief in him. Therefore, no one should lose
trust, no one should despair of the divine reward, even if previous
sins cause him remorse. God can change his opinion if you can make
amends for your sin" (2, 33: SAEMO, XI, Milan-Rome, 1978, p.
I welcome the
English-speaking pilgrims at today's Audience, including visitors
from England, Scotland, Nigeria and the United States of America. I
assure all of you here today and your families and loved ones of a
remembrance in my prayers, and I hope that you will enjoy your visit
to Rome. May your pilgrimage strengthen your faith and renew your
love for the Lord, and may God bless you all.
I also greet the
sick and the newly-weds, and urge them to base their
lives on the Word of God, to be builders of the civilization of
love, of which the Cross of Christ, a source of light, comfort and
hope, is an eloquent symbol.
Lastly, my thoughts
go to the young people - thank you for coming, thank you for
your faith! - remembering that today is the fourth centenary of the
beatification of St Aloysius Gonzaga, the world patron of youth.
Dear friends, may his heroic Gospel witness support you in your
commitment of daily fidelity to Christ!
© Copyright 2005 -
Libreria Editrice Vaticana
This page is the work of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and