Psalm 45: God Longs for Us

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 45 which scripture scholars interpret as a Davidic wedding song. Many believe it refers to the marriage of a king to the daughter of a royal foreign house.

The psalm is set today between two powerful readings. 

In our first reading, Paul gives an extended opinion piece on celibacy and marriage, a reading which has spawned countless academic interpretations. Our Gospel, pivotal to our understanding of holiness, also has generated abundant scholarly commentary.

We may finish today’s readings wondering who must I be to become the person God wants me to be? Celibate? Poor? Hungry? Sorrowful? Persecuted?  Like Francis Thompson in his famous poem, The Hound of Heaven, we may feel pursued by a God we might rather ignore!

For, though I knew His love Who followèd, 
        Yet was I sore adread 
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside

Indeed, the answer is not simple. Each person’s path to God’s heart is different. The readings don’t give us a foolproof map. Instead, they give us prompts about where we might go off the path.

In other words, the readings spread the stars across our heavens. But we must find our own bearings in life to allow us to continually deepen our relationship with God. If our current circumstances and choices prevent that in any way, we must reorient ourselves.

For me the lesson is this. God desires our complete love and worship. God wants to be the center of our lives. That’s why we exist. All the rest is incidental.

Our psalm captures it in this way:

Hear, my child, and see; turn your ear,
forget those things to which you are accustomed.
So shall the Lord desire your full commitment;
the Lord Whom you must worship with your life.

Our Gospel is uncompromising in its warning that obsession with material goods, personal comfort, and selfish success blocks our awareness of how distant we can grow from God:

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false 
prophets in this way.

We are blessed if we are free of these woes, but it is hard in a culture spiritually crippled by these obsessions.

Psalm 45 calls us to “bend our ear” toward God’s invitation. By sincere prayer and loving vigilance, we can hear the Divine whisper within our circumstances, leading us to fullness of life with God. We will recognize it by this: it always calls us to justice, mercy, and charity.

You love justice and hate wrongdoing;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness above your peers.

Poetry: Excerpt from The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson

( It’s a little “frilly” with early 20th century Romanticism, but – oh my! – some of its lines get burned into the memory!)

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; 
I fled Him, down the arches of the years; 
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways 
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears 
I hid from Him, and under running laughter. 
Up vistaed hopes I sped; 
And shot, precipitated, 
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears, 
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after. 
But with unhurrying chase, 
And unperturbèd pace, 
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, 
They beat—and a Voice beat 
More instant than the Feet— 
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’ 

Music: I Long for You – Ro Atilano

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