Today, as Pope Benedict XVI reached the exact 6-month mark since his election to the papacy, he told an audience of 40,000 gathered in St. Peter’s Square, that the Christian God is not one who condemns, but one who constantly offers forgiveness and mercy.
The Pope continued his ongoing catechesis on the Psalms today, this time speaking on Psalm 129, best known by its opening: "out of the depths I cry to thee."
He pointed out that it is "one of the best-known and most loved psalms of the Christian tradition."
He recalled that Psalm 129 is known as the "De profundis," and explained that "it is, in the first place, a song of divine mercy and of reconciliation between the sinner and the Lord."
"It opens", he said, "with a voice arising from the depths of evil and guilt. ... then continues over three stages dedicated to the subject of sin and forgiveness."
The Pope 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." To this, he said: "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," he stressed, "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, he pointed out that "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, Benedict went on, "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."
As he concluded his teaching, the Holy Father quoted St. Ambrose who, writing on the psalm in his Tractate on Penance, says: "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."
Following the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages, before blessing a statue of St. Mariana de Jesus Paredes y Flores (1618 - 1645), the "lily of Quito" and first saint of Ecuador. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
Her statue now rests in a niche on the outside of St. Peter's Basilica, along with numerous other saints, whose statues have recently been erected.