Psalm 116: The Return?

Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, September 12, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the lilting Psalm 116, an intimate, tender, and powerful prayer.

The psalmist, overwhelmed by God’s goodness, asks a clear and urgent question:

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good God has done for me?


The verse itself shows the spiritual awareness of the questioner. Some people don’t believe God has done anything for them. They think they’ve done everything for themselves! And it’s sad to see somebody lost in that illusion.

They never feel awe and gratitude that they have received, as pure gift from God:

  • the breath of life
  • the capacity to believe, hope and love
  • the beauty of all Creation
  • the heritage of faith, family and friendship
  • the blessing of community in its many forms
  • the particular gifts that make them unique in the world
  • the capacity to care, act, and change things toward good
  • the irrevocable invitation to befriend God
  • the Lavish Mercy and steadfast accompaniment of that Divine Inviter
  • the promise of eternity

As we grow in our capacity to recognize and live out of these gifts, we deepen in our “sacrifice of praise”.

Walter Brueggemann describes a sacrifice of praise like this:

It must be an intimate, yielding act of trustful submission of “spirit and heart,” not “sacrifice and burnt offerings”. The speaker (psalmist), now situated in glad praise, can imagine an intimacy and communion in which contact between God and self is available and in which the distinction between the two parties is clear and acknowledged—God in splendor, the self in “brokenness”.


That “brokenness” is fully given to God to heal and empower with grace so that one’s life becomes a witness to God’s love.

To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.


The “sacrifice of praise” is not accomplished in a single declaration or decision. It can begin like that. But to last, it must be “lived into”, moment by moment, through an intentional, prayerful life. That is the lesson of today’s Gospel – it is how we build our “house” on rock.


Poetry: God of Shelter, God of Shade – by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

God of shelter from the rain,
God of shade from the heat, 
I run from You
through the muddy street
of my uncommitted heart
till wild winds beat
against my doors,
blasting sand
through all my walls,
and I stand
without retreat,
hear Your command
to be the wheat. 
Sweet the giving!
Sweet this land! 
God of shelter from the rain.
God of shade from the heat.
Music: Alvin Slaughter and Inside out - The Sacrifice of Praise

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