In this short passage, you’ll notice that before the Israelites make fervent pleas to God to save them from ruin and seizure, they all do one thing in common: drape themselves in sackcloth. The sackcloth is a sign of penitence or mourning.
What’s so important about what the Israelites cover themselves with?
This tradition speaks to a few things.
The Israelites go to great lengths to display this covering before the Lord before making what is essentially a big prayer request. Since it is human nature to sin, the Israelites display a covering of their sinfulness as a prayer offering to God to overlook their sinfulness and instead pay attention to their faithfulness as His people, with great trust in His mercy to save them.
This action reminds me of the words spoken at Mass during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, “Look not upon our sins, Lord, but on the faith of Your Church...” when the priest asks God to be merciful - sinful and imperfect though we are - instead of ignoring our prayers because we deserve punishment for our sins. At the same time that we make prayer requests, we humbly acknowledge our imperfections, offering up all of that which constitutes our faithfulness during Mass, trusting in God’s mercy to in the same way the Israelites did.
Humility. Trust. Mercy.
I’ll be honest; this quality of God’s sometimes escapes me. For example, I might want to ask God for so much but will end up feeling guilty or undeserving of God’s extravagant mercy because I wasn’t “as good as I could have been” or have been having a spiritually “dry” season in comparison to my prayer life in previous years or in comparison to people I know.
But this is nonsense. The reality is I’ll never be perfect! This passage reminds me that God’s mercy is greater than all of the sins I could commit.
Does this knowledge give us free rein to carelessly disregard spiritual life and abuse the mercy of God? No. And we mustn’t be afraid to run back to the Lord with all of our shortcomings.
Jesus loves me in my mess, and He loves me so much, He doesn’t want to leave me there.
Knowing that in your brokenness, you are eternally loved by God whole is the most wonderful, important realization you can have.
Peace be with you, my gorgeous faithful sister.