Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 40, and wow, do we need it after an astounding heartless first reading!

The Return of Jephthah
by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini
The Yorck Project ( Public Domain)

The story of Jephthah and his daughter is one of the most disturbing in the Bible! It contains so many flaws in faith and reason that it becomes almost unusable for prayer. Then again, maybe that’s the very reason we should pray with it.

Jephthah:

  • was so full of his own lust for victory that he made a promise to God which God would never want.
  • was so focused on himself that he ignored the maxim against human sacrifice
  • had such a distorted concept of God that he made an excuse to kill on God’s supposed behalf

The lesson for me? Don’t be like Jephthah.

We can use God, distort God, and manufacture what we believe to be God’s Will. Countless people have done so down through the centuries and are still doing it. Just shake a history book, and a thousand Jephthahs fall out wrapped in other inglorious names.

We constantly see religion manipulated into a tool for political and personal aggression. The world is full of people who purport to know God’s Will for the rest of us.


Psalm 40 blessedly contradicts this kind of idolatry. We must never attempt to create God in our own image, to satisfy our own agendas.

Psalm 40 lists those practices that will help us to sincere relationship with God and God’s power in our lives:

  • steadfast trust
  • unvarnished honesty
  • humble praise
  • prayerful obedience
  • responsiveness to grace

Happy are they who trust in the Lord!
they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods.
Great things are they that you have done, O Lord my God! 
how great your wonders and your plans for us!
There is none who can be compared with you.
Oh, that I could make them known and tell them, 
but they are more than I can count.
In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure
(you have given me ears to hear you);
burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required.

Psalm 40:4-8

These virtues are powereded by a deeply prayerful and reflective life which roots God’s Goodness in our souls.

And so I said, “Behold, I come.
In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:
‘I love to do your will, O my God; 
your law is deep within my heart.’”

Psalm 40:

Poetry: I Know What You Want – a Psalm 40 prayer by Rev. Christine Robinson

I have trusted You, Holy One
  and waited for You.
When I was mired in misery
  you touched me with your spirit.
You pulled me out
  and set me on solid ground.
You put a song in my heart and work in my hands. 
  I praise you.
I know what you want from me,
  and where the meaning of my life lies—
Not in rituals, offerings, sacrifices, or creeds,
  just my heart; open to others, and open to You.
I try to live that way.
  I fail often but you nudge and beckon and I follow.
I pray that my words, my song, my life
  show forth your light and light others’ way.
May all who seek you find you.
Touch us with your spirit, that we may be glad.

Music: Take, Lord, Receive – John Foley, SJ

This prayer is the Suscipe of St. Ignatius Loyola found in the final part of his book, “The Spiritual Exercises”.

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