Memorial of Saint Monica

Friday, August 27, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 97, one of several psalms categorized as “enthronement psalms”. These psalms celebrate God as king, a king exponentially greater than any human sovereign.

But Psalm 97 shows us that this Divine Ruler is also exponentially different from the flawed and often oppressive human rulers Israel (and others throughout history)has/have experienced. 

For that reason, God is the only one who should rule our lives, and all human authority should mirror God’s perfect balance of love, mercy, and justice.

The psalm indicates how God is uniquely supreme:

JUSTICE – God’s reign is founded on justice, not domination 

The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
    let the many isles be glad.
   Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.


UNIVERSALITY – God’s power moves earth and heaven, beyond any human ability

The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
    before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
    and all peoples see his glory.


GOODNESS – God loves goodness, not evil; uprightness, not power plays

The LORD loves those who hate evil;
    he guards the lives of his faithful ones;
    from the hand of the wicked he delivers them.


JOY – God’s reign brings universal joy, not subjugation. It inspires gratitude, not fear:

Light dawns for the just;
    and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
    and give thanks to God’s holy name


Psalm 97, though constructed on a metaphor that doesn’t speak to many of us, still has much to teach us.

  • How do we image God?
  • How does that image inspire, define, or control our behaviors and choices?
  • In whatever form we exercise authority, how do we reflect God’s authority?
  • Especially in our influence over younger, or vulnerable persons, what image of God would they learn from us?

For Christians, Psalm 97 points to a most contradictory “king”, one who loves the “beatitude person” and is willing to suffer and die for them. The psalm so clearly foreshadows Christ that it is the psalm prayed at Mass on Christmas Day.

In Christmas the Church does not simply celebrate the birth of a wondrous baby. Through that birth we celebrate the cosmic reality that God has entered the process of the world in a decisive way that changes everything toward life. The entry of God into the process of the world is the premise of the poem in Psalm 97.

Walter Brueggemann, Psalm 97: Psalm for Christmas Day

Poetry: The Kingdom – R. S. Thomas

                 It’s a long way off but inside it
                 There are quite different things going on:
                 Festivals at which the poor man
                 Is king and the consumptive is
                 Healed; mirrors in which the blind look
                 At themselves and love looks at them
                 Back; and industry is for mending
                 The bent bones and the minds fractured
                 By life. It’s a long way off, but to get
                 There takes no time and admission
                 Is free, if you will purge yourself
                 Of desire, and present yourself with
                 Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.

Music: The Servant King – Graham Kendrick

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