Psalm 74: Listen to me!

Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

June 27, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 74 which complements Psalm 79 in the intensity of its lament. It too reflects the devastation of Israel at the destruction of the Temple and, with it, a whole way of life.

Praying these psalms doesn’t make for a light and happy morning! There is no dawning sunrise or birdsong woven through these verses. To tell the truth, I’d be inclined to avoid 47 if I could.

To deepen the umbra, our first reading comes from the Book of Lamentations, five anguished poems of wrenching bereavement.


But what these doleful songs remind me of this morning is that there is profound misery in the world, even if – thank God – I am not experiencing it personally. There are people who need my prayers, my awareness of their suffering, my attention, and my action for their easement. I am reminded that even if I am filled with contentment, these suffering people are irrevocably connected to me.

Psalm 74 reminds me that God needs instruments to heal the misery of the world. I am called – as you are – to be one of them. In small or large ways, in global or very personal efforts, we are the means by which God answers this plea:

Look to your covenant, Lord,
for the hiding places in the land and the plains are full of violence.
May the humble not retire in confusion;
may the afflicted and the poor praise your name.

In this verse, the psalmist asks God to look at his world’s suffering, believing that if God only sees, God will heal.

The psalm calls us to look too…

  • to not be impervious to the pain right before us nor at a distance from us
  • to hear the cry under appearances
  • to become a safe “hiding place” for those fleeing violence in its many forms – from bullying to genocide
  • to be Mercy in the world

Poetry: The poem today is Quaking Conversation by Lenelle Moïse. It looks at the world’s darkness through the tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti. The poem is a modern Psalm 74, asking the reader to “sit down” and listen to its pain.

Quaking Conversation

i want to talk about haiti.
how the earth had to break
the island’s spine to wake
the world up to her screaming.
how this post-earthquake crisis
is not natural
or supernatural.

i want to talk about disasters.
how men make them
with embargoes, exploitation,
stigma, sabotage, scalding
debt and cold shoulders.
talk centuries
of political corruption
so commonplace
it's lukewarm, tap.

talk january 1, 1804
and how it shed life.
talk 1937
and how it bled death.
talk 1964.  1986.  1991.  2004.  2008.
how history is the word
that makes today
uneven, possible.
talk new orleans,
palestine, sri lanka,
the bronx and other points
or connection.
talk resilience and miracles.

how haitian elders sing in time
to their grumbling bellies
and stubborn hearts.
how after weeks under the rubble,
a baby is pulled out,
awake, dehydrated, adorable, telling
stories with old-soul eyes.
how many more are still
buried, breathing, praying and waiting?
intact despite the veil of fear and dust
coating their bruised faces?

i want to talk about our irreversible dead.
the artists, the activists, the spiritual leaders,
the family members, the friends, the merchants
the outcasts, the cons.
all of them, my newest ancestors,
all of them, hovering now,
watching our collective response,
keeping score, making bets.

i want to talk about money.
how one man's recession might be
another man's unachievable reality.
how unfair that is.
how i see a haitian woman’s face
every time i look down at a hot meal,
slip into my bed, take a sip of water,
show mercy to a mirror.
how if my parents had made different
decisions three decades ago,
it could have been my arm
sticking out of a mass grave

i want to talk about gratitude.
i want to talk about compassion.
i want to talk about respect.
how even the desperate deserve it.
how haitians sometimes greet each other
with the two words “honor”
and “respect.”
how we all should follow suit.
try every time you hear the word “victim,”
you think “honor.”
try every time you hear the tag “john doe,”
you shout “respect!”
because my people have names.
because my people have nerve.
because my people are
your people in disguise

i want to talk about haiti.
i always talk about haiti.
my mouth quaking with her love,
complexity, honor and respect.
come sit, come stand, come
cry with me. talk.
there’s much to say.
walk. much more to do.

Musi: God of the Poor – Graham Kendrick

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s