Psalm 10: Lord, Don’t Turn Away

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 18, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 10. It is known in Latin by its first mournful line:

Ut quid Domine recessisti

Lord, why are You standing so far from me?

The image that comes to my mind is of two people at a large social gathering. One is not speaking to the other because of a profound disagreement. But the other is desperately sorry and wants to be forgiven and restored. Still, the first person remains distant, off in the room’s far corner, and seems to ignore any imploring glances.

In Psalm 10, Israel is that imploring person. They lament all the discord around them and wonder why their powerful Friend seems to ignore them, failing to help.

I know that I have talked to God about this feeling hundreds of times. What about you?

I continually ask the age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Are you not paying attention, Lord?  Did you accidentally fire the “Bad Things Gun” in the wrong direction, or do you just not care?

Why do You seem not to notice or care?

But the psalmist eventually stills herself at the center of these spinning questions. In that stillness, she rests in utter dependency on God. We creatures do not see through the mystery of good and evil, but God does. When we accept that, and look for God in the circumstances, peace settles in.

You do see, for you behold misery and sorrow,
taking them in your hands.
On you the unfortunate one depends;
of the fatherless you are the helper.

Psalm 10, for all its heart-wrenching mournfulness, is really a psalm of exultant victory. Within its prayer, the vulnerable one is transformed to comprehend the secret. God favors them and assures their deliverance by faith.

If for some reason, we might feel that God is on the other side of the room ignoring us, let us not turn away. Walk over and tug God’s sleeve with your prayer.  Lift the burdens from your shoulders into God’s open arms.

You listen, LORD, to the needs of the poor;
you strengthen their heart and incline your ear.

Poetry:  another excerpt from Burnt Norton – T.S. Eliot

Time and the bell have buried the day,
the black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?
Fingers of yew be curled
Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.

Music: D’où vient cela – Claudin de Sermisy – written in, and sung here, in French by a German choir. This melody was originally a popular love chanson, reworked in the 16th century to be Psalm 10. I could find only the French and German translations (below). For those, like me, who understand neither, the music itself is sufficiently beautiful.

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