Psalm 128: Awesome!

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 27, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 128, written around the time of return after the Babylonian Captivity.

Israel was in a time of re-establishment, a time of rediscovering the blueprint for a settled and fruitful life. Psalm 128 lays that formula out:

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in God’s ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.

Psalm 128:1-2

As with many scripture passages, (certainly today’s from Ephesians !!!), some of the original language doesn’t ring perfectly with our modern sensibilities. Personally, my spirituality doesn’t include “fear” when I relate to God. 

Rather than interpret such passages rigidly, we need to receive the words for the core of their meaning, which remains the same over the ages. What changes is how each culture and social evolution receives and honors the Word. This is the reason we pray with scripture and study it, rather than simply read it as we would read a cereal box.


Happy is everyone who fears the Lord…
“In this phrase, ‘fear’ is not about being intimidated or ‘shaking in your boots’ before the divine presence. It is rather about reverence or awe before YHWH, and the observation that whom one reveres, one obeys. To fear YHWH is to entrust all of life and hope to this one and follow the divine guidance. The perspective of the psalm is that such a decision about lifestyle makes a difference; living in line with YHWH’s teaching brings a profound joy and completeness to life.”

Walter Brueggemann – New Cambridge biblical Commentary

Psalm 128 invites us today to explore our sense of awe, reverence, and obedience toward God’s Presence in our lives. As we breathe in God’s boundless love for us, may we breathe out our complete trust and gratitude.


Poetry: Entering Saint Patrick’s Cathedral by Malachi Black

I have carried in my coat, black wet 
with rain. I stand. I clear my throat.

My coat drips. The carved door closes
on its slow brass hinge. City noises— 

car horns, bicycle bells, the respiration
truck engines, the whimpering 

steel in midtown taxi brakes—bend
in through the doorjamb with the wind 

then drop away. The door shuts plumb: it seals
the world out like a coffin lid. A chill, 

dampened and dense with the spent breath
of old Hail Marys, lifts from the smoothed

stone of the nave. I am here to pay
my own respects, but I will wait: 

my eyes must grow accustomed
to church light, watery and dim.

I step in. Dark forms hunch forward
in the pews. Whispering, their heads 

are bowed, their mouths pressed
to the hollows of clasped hands. 

High overhead, a gathering of shades
glows in stained glass: the resurrected 

mingle with the dead and martyred
in panes of blue, green, yellow, red. 

Beneath them lies the golden holy 
altar, holding its silence like a bell,

and there, brightly skeletal beside it,
the organ pipes: cold, chrome, quiet 

but alive with a vibration tolling
out from the incarnate 

source of holy sound. I turn, shivering
back into my coat. The vaulted ceiling 

bends above me like an ear. It waits:
I hold my tongue. My body is my prayer.

Music: How Great Thou Art – Mormon Tabernacle Choir

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