Psalm 116: Listen!

Second Sunday of Lent

February 28, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 116 which Pope John Paul II called “A Prayer of Thanksgiving to the Lord”.

Praying the psalm today, in the context of our other Sunday readings, leads us deeper into the nature of that “thanksgiving” and its relationship to sacrifice.

Abraham and Isaac by Rembrandt

In our first reading, we meet Abraham, full of thanks that God reconsidered the command to sacrifice his dear son.


But then our second reading expresses thanks that God was willing to sacrifice his own Son for our sakes.

The Transfiguration by Titian

Finally, our Gospel takes us to the Transfiguration where that Son who will be sacrificed is revealed in his true glory.

What is the thread binding these readings? I think it can be found in this Gospel verse:

This is my beloved Son.  
Listen to him.

True listening is obedience. The words come from the same root: obedience = listen to,” from ob “to” + audire “listen, hear”.

  • Abraham listens, no matter how hard, and finally hears God’s real command to love.
  • Jesus listens to the Will of the Father even through his suffering, and is led to Resurrection.
  • We, like Peter, James and John, are called to listen to Jesus who will transfigure our perceptions about what life is really calling us to.

In each case, intent “obedience” allows the listener to hear and see beneath circumstances to the deeper Grace beyond appearances. Deep spiritual listening transfigures us!

This is the whole point of the spiritual life. Our lives are so much more than mere circumstances or appearance. Our psalm calls us to believe this even in difficulty:

I believed, even when I said,
    “I am greatly afflicted.”
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
    is the death of his faithful ones.

Psalm 116:10

When we do this, we are freed to engage our lives at the level of God’s Will which is always for our good, which is always from Love. The long tradition of faith, learned from our forbearers, assures us of this:

O LORD, I am your servant;
    I am your servant, the child of your faithful ones;
    you have loosed my bonds.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:16-17

Some of us go through life continually angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed by our challenges. Others, experiencing similar or even greater challenges, reflect a spirit of joy, peace, and gratitude. Why is that? I think today’s readings give us a big clue. Let’s listen to them!


Poetry: Story of Isaac, written and chanted by the bard Leonard Cohen who also wrote the currently popular “Hallelujah “.


Music: Psalm 116: Steve Green

Lyrics

I love the Lord, He heard my voice
He heard my voice. He heard my voice
He heard my cry for mercy
Because He has turned His ear to me
I will call (I will call)
I will call (I will call)
I will call on the Lord for as long as I live

I love the Lord, He heard my voice
He heard my voice. He heard my voice
He heard my cry
I love the Lord, He heard my voice
He heard my voice. He heard my voice
He heard my cry for mercy
He heard my cry for mercy

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