Psalm 25: Grace through Prisms

First Sunday of Lent

February 21, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 25, a prayer full of humility, thanksgiving, and hope.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
    teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my savior.

Psalm 25: 4-5

Genesis 9:12

On this First Sunday of Lent, the psalm is set between the wonderful Noah story, its interpretation by Peter, and the proclamation of Christ’s redemptive mission.

Like Noah, humankind has come through the storm of an ages-long messianic longing. Jesus is the Rainbow rising out of that darkness. His Light passes into us through the prismed waters of our Baptism. Indeed, as our Psalm declares:

Good and upright is the LORD,
    showing sinners the way.
God guides the humble to justice,
    and teaches the humble the godly way.

Psalm 25: 8-9

When our psalmist first begins to pray, the light within seems shadowed and the vibrancy of his soul perhaps fractured. At times, we have felt the same way. 

But the psalmist’s sincere and humble prayer catches God’s Light, allowing the passage from shadows to to the full rainbow of Mercy. May it be so for all of us as well as we journey with Jesus through Lent.

Poetry: on a separate post today due to its length — but so worth the time to read and savor.


Music: Rainbow by Robert Plant – Let God sing this song to you, perhaps the way God sang in Noah’s heart when he was delivered from the flood.

I found a lucky charm
I dressed it up with love
I crossed the Seven Seas to you
Will it be enough?

And I will be a rainbow
Oh, now your storm is gone
And I will bring the song for you
And I will carry on
Ooh Ooh Ooh
Ooh Ooh Ooh

I'm reachin' for the stars
In the sky above
Oh, I will bring their beauty home
The colors of my love

And I will be a rainbow
Now your storm is gone
And I will bring my song to you
And I will carry on
(Hummed interlude)

Love is enough
Though the world be a wind
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining

My hands shall not tremble, my feet shall not falter
The voyage shall not weary, the fish shall not alter
Hmm, It's rainbow, oh it's rainbow
Oh, can't you see the eyes are the eyes of a lover

Pocket full of hearts
A world that's filled with love
A love that carries all before
The passion and the flood

I lie beneath the rainbow
Now your tears have gone
And I will sing my song for you
And I will carry on
(Repeated interlude)

Psalm 1: Aligned to God

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

February 18, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1, a familiar reminder of what a working relationship with God looks like:

Blessed the one who follows not
    the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
    and meditates on God’s law day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

The phrases in that little verse are so powerful! 

We have seen all too clearly what happens when people “follow the counsel of the wicked”. We know how easily we can be infected by the negativity of “the insolent”. There is a spiritual distemper in us when these fractious humors fill the atmosphere.

Instead, we seek the peace and delight of being right with God. We embrace God’s law as a support and inspiration to guide us.


When we think of God’s Law, we might rightly think of the Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Torah, the Gospel – those places where we find the Law codified in words.

But we might also think of God’s Law as that silent omnipotent force that lifts the sun from darkness and sets it down again, that holds the seas in their global bowl, that lights the night with fiery stars.

Affinity with God’s Law is that loving practice which, by intrinsic prayer and reflection, gives over every moment of our lives to God’s order. That alignment, rooting us in God’s “due season”, allows goodness to blossom in us like a fruitful tree – an unfading, abundant harvest …

Like a tree
    planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
    and whose leaves never fade,
    ever prospering.

Psalm 1:3

Poetry: Onto a Vast Plain – Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen.
You are not surprised at the force of the storm—
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit:
now it becomes a riddle again
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you know
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.

Music: How Deep, How Simple – Kathryn Kaye

Psalm 8: God’s Handiwork

Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 8 which, in keeping with our first reading from Genesis, describes our Creator God in terms we can humanly understand.

I have always thought of these verses as the “Psalm of the Knitting God” who weaves the cloth of Creation to clothe us:

When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars which you set in place—
What are we that you should be mindful of us ,
    or that you should care for us?

Psalm 8:4

As beautiful as its images are, Psalm 8 contains a challenging verse which some, over time, have interpreted to support human domination of all creation:

You have made humans little less than the angels,
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them rule over the works of your hands,
    putting all things under their feet.

Psalm 8:6-7

Elephant Trophy Hunting

The verse has been manipulated to justify an attitude of supremacy rather than unity and cooperation with nature. That misinterpretation supports such activities as uncontrolled extraction mining, land seizure, trophy hunting and many other forms of natural exploitation.

More recent theology has helped to understand our role in Creation in a humbler, truer light, as stated in the introduction to Laudato Sí:


LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.


To prepare for prayer this morning, I reflected on “The Way of Beauty”, Stations of the Cross composed by Gilbert Choondal, SDB, a Salesian Priest of Don Bosco. He holds a PhD in Catechetics and Youth Ministry from the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome. Presently he is the president of the Indian Catechetical Association.
You may find these prayerful reflections helpful, especially as we approach the season of Lent. (You may have to double-click the picture of the Good Shepherd to make the document come up.)


Poetry: Hovering – Joseph Stroud

(for Tom Marshall)
Tom and I are walking Last Chance Road
down from the mountain where we had been
hunting mushrooms under a stand of coast oaks,
walking down and looking out to the Pacific
shimmering in the late fall sun, the light
on the surface like glittering flakes of mica,
when we see a white-tailed kite hovering
in the air, hovering over a green pasture,
hovering over the day, over the two of us,
our very lives hovering as well, there
on the California coast, in the fall, in the sun,
on our way home, with a sack of chanterelles,
with our love for this world, with so much time,
and so little time—all of it—hovering—
and hovering still.


Music: Take Care of the Planet – a delightful reminder from Australia🤗

Psalm 104: Beautiful Creator

Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, February 8, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 104, a lyrical hymn of praise for the wonders of Creation. As I write this morning, an ermine snow coats the evergreens in soft white feathers. There is a quiet whisper in the trees, like God might make while sleeping

To prepare for prayer, I turn to my favorite theologian who writes extensively about Psalm 104 in his book, From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms.

I have outlined my reading here for those who might like to approach Psalm 104 from Brueggemann’s perspective. If you benefit from his work, I highly recommend his book:

From Walter Brueggemann:

Psalm 104 divides roughly into two parts. The first part (vv. 1–24) provides an inventory of the components of creation, framed by a doxological formula. I suggest that inventory framed by doxology (praise prayer) is a good way to begin our thinking about creation.


In the second half of the poem, verses 25–35, we are offered four themes that may serve as reference points as we trace the paradigmatic power and significance of creation:

  1. Creation and Chaos
    These verses attest to the reliable, generative ordering of creation that makes use of all available creaturely possibilities.

There is the sea, great and wide!
It teems with countless beings,
living things both large and small.
There ships ply their course
and Leviathan,* whom you formed to play with.

Psalm 104: 25-26
  1. Creation and Provision

The creator “gives, gives, opens”; the creatures “gather, receive, eat,” and “are filled.” This transaction between the giver and the recipients is endless, reliable, and necessary. The creatures are always on the receiving end of the generous giving of the creator.

These all look to you to give them their food in due season;
when you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are filled with good things.

Psalm 104: 27-28
  1. Creation and Ruach

“Rauch” is a Hebrew word which images God as a breath, a wind, or a life force that sustains all living things, human beings included. in Psalm 104, “rauch” describes God’s generous, life-initiating, life-sustaining gift of vitality without which no creature can live:

When you hide your face, they panic.
Take away their breath, they perish
and return to the dust.
Send forth your spirit, they are created
and you renew the face of the earth.

Psalm 104: 29-30
  1. Creation and Righteous Judgement 

Righteousness is glad acceptance of the good ordering of reality given and guaranteed by the creator, an ordering that culminates in confident Sabbath from all our destructive drives for self-worth.

May sinners vanish from the earth,
and the wicked be no more.
Bless the LORD, my soul! Hallelujah!

Psalm 104: 35

My humble prayer, wrought in light of Brueggemann’s elegant theology is this:

I praise and thank You, God, for the wonder of Creation.
I am in awe of your Power to order all things toward Beauty.
From that balance of beauty and power,
you offer me the joys and challenges of life.
You sustain and nourish me, even in the overwhelming times.
I want to respond fully and gratefully
to your creative power in my life and in our world.
Please give me clarity and courage
to live within your life-giving creative Grace.

Amen


Poetry: The Creation by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)


And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I’m lonely—
I’ll make me a world.

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That’s good!

Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
And God rolled the light around in his hands
Until he made the sun;
And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: That’s good!

Then God himself stepped down—

And the sun was on his right hand,
And the moon was on his left;
The stars were clustered about his head,
And the earth was under his feet.
And God walked, and where he trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas—
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed—
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled—
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around his shoulder.

Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop his hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That’s good!

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I’m lonely still.

Then God sat down—
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I’ll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Amen. Amen.

Music: Creation Song – Fernando Ortega

Psalm 147: Brokenhearted?

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 7, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147 which invites us to:

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
    sing praise to our God, Who is gracious;
    Whom it is fitting to praise.

It is a psalm for the left-brained who, like Job in our first reading, might need some explanation about just why we should praise when life seems so unpraiseworthy at times!

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
    Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
    a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
    and troubled nights have been allotted to me.

Job 7: 1-4

Job, like many of us when we suffer, feels crushed under life’s burdens. However, an extended reading of the Book of Job reveals that humility and repentance allow Job to “see God”, and to rediscover the richness and flavor of his life.

Calling us to the same kind of awareness, Psalm 147 presents a series of reasons for praising God, including God’s continual attention to the city of Jerusalem, to brokenhearted and injured individuals, to the cosmos, and to nature.

For me, the most moving of these reasons comes in verse 3:

The Lord heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
The Lord tells the number of the stars;
    calling each by name.


This is a beautiful picture of our infinitely compassionate God who is able to recognize our broken-heartedness. 

This loving God, who knows the stars by name, knows us as well. We, like Job, begin to heal within the divine lullaby God patiently sings over our broken hearts.

Jesus is that Healing Song, the Word hummed over the world by the merciful Creator. In today’s Gospel, we see that Melody poured out over the suffering:

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Mark 1: 32-34

As we pray today,

let us hear God’s song of mercy
being sung over all Creation.
Let us rest our own brokenness
there in its compassionate chords.
Let us bring the world’s pain to our prayer.

Poetry: A Cure Of Souls by Denise Levertov

The pastor
of grief and dreams
guides his flock towards
the next field
with all his care.
He has heard
the bell tolling
but the sheep
are hungry and need
the grass, today and
every day. Beautiful
his patience, his long
shadow, the rippling
sound of the flocks moving
along the valley.

Music: God Heals My Broken Heart – Patty Felker

If Job were singing his sadness today, it might sound like this song.

Psalm 23: Ever Comforting

Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

Saturday, February 6, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, that lovingly familiar song which, over the ages, has comforted so many.

Beside Still Waters by Greg Olsen

We may wish to simply pray this psalm gently and slowly, remembering the many times it has comforted us.

(Below is the inclusive language translation from the Inclusive Language Liturgical Psalter of the Canadian Anglican Synod. Other inclusion collections include Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the Psalter for the Christian People, The Saint Helena Psalter and the Canadian publication, Songs for the Holy One.)

Psalm 23 (Dominus regit me)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
You make me lie down in green pastures 
and lead me beside still waters.
You revive my soul 
and guide me along right pathways 
for your name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me
in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil, 
and my cup is running over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


Music: Shepherd Me, O God – Marty Haugen

Psalm 103: Praise List

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

February 3, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, an extended exhortation to bless and praise the Lord.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
    and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits.

Psalm 103: 1-2

Running through all of Psalm 103, the psalmist creates a list of reasons to bless God.

For me, it was a good morning to create my own list and simply pray with that opening phrase:

I bless you, Lord and thank you…for …

The beauty outside my window was a good place to start.

Where would you start your “praise list” today?


Poetry: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost
Appreciating God’s beauty and blessings may lead us to act on our prayer, as it seems to for the poet:

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
   
My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.
  
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.
  
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Music: Winter Snow – Chris Tomlin

Psalm 31: An Inextinguishable Light

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

February 1, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 31 which assures us that we can rest in God’s love if we will just hope.

Let your hearts take comfort,
all who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 31: 25

Hope can be a complex virtue to understand.
The Catholic Catechism describes Hope in this way:
Hope is the theological virtue
by which we desire the kingdom of heaven
and eternal life as our happiness,
placing our trust in Christ’s promises
and relying not on our own strength,
but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
(CCC 1817)


This definition offers an important key. The kind of hope we are praying about in our psalm is a “virtue”, not a feeling. And in particular, hope is one of the three theological virtues which, according to the brilliant Thomas Aquinas means this:

… these virtues are called theological virtues
“because they have God for their object,
both in so far as by them we are properly directed to Him,
and because they are infused into our souls by God alone,
as also, finally, because we come to know of them
only by Divine revelation in the Sacred Scriptures”.



Now, you know, Thomas wasn’t probably that fun to talk with, given all that theological Latin. But, wow, he nailed this one.

What I think he meant, in other words, is that we are not talking about the feeling of hope, as when we put a soufflé in the oven and hope it doesn’t collapse. Or when we study like crazy and hope the right questions are on the exam. Or even when, more importantly, we make a life choice like marriage or religious life and hope it will bring us a fulfilling, lasting joy.

These kinds of “hopes” might be better defined as optimistic expectations. If they fail to be fulfilled, we might give up on them, perhaps even stop trying to achieve the kind of joy they promised. (That’s a whole other reflection! 🙂 )

Instead, the Hope we are praying about today is not a feeling. It is a gift, given by God and nurtured by our faithful practice of scriptural prayer.

Just like “Life” which is breathed into us by God without any cooperation of our own, the virtue of Hope – along with Faith and Love – is infused into our souls in God’s loving act of creation.

And just like the principle of life,
Faith, Hope, and Love
reside in us forever.


These theological realities can be hard to grasp. To make it easier, I turn them into images for my prayer. I picture Faith, Hope and Love as three small but inextinguishable candle flames deep in my spirit. God is the One who fires their light and warmth.

The circumstances of my life, chosen or imposed, can affect my ability to see and feel the power of these gifts. But circumstances cannot extinguish them because they belong to God not to me.

Once I said in my anguish,
    “I am cut off from your sight”;
Yet you heard the sound of my pleading
    when I cried out to you.

Psalm 31: 23

By prayer, and the faithful effort to be open to God’s Presence in my life, these virtues deepen in me. I can rest assured in their divine constancy. Their power and energy fuel my life both in the favorable and unfavorable “winds” of my circumstances.

Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
    The LORD keeps those who are constant,
    but more than requites those who act proudly.

Psalm 31: 24

I found this tender transliteration of Psalm 31 by Christine Robison helpful for my prayer:

I have come to you, O God, please, take me in.
Hear my prayers, be my rock, my stronghold, my castle.
Help me untangle myself from the web of confusions 
and self-deceptions that I’m stuck in.

I put my trust in you—I give you my life.
I have turned
from the temptation to trust the ten thousand things.
I have turned
from the temptation to despair of your love and help.

I have learned
to see you in my sorrows and afflictions
A lot of my life went by before I managed this,
which makes me sad.

Now, I practice trust and open-hearted acceptance
of my life as it is.
Now I practice trust and open-hearted acceptance
of You as You are.

Poetry: Hope – Lisel Mueller

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.
It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

Music: Lavender Shadows – Michael Hoppé

Psalm 85: Be A Neighbor

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

“A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer.”

Evangelium vitae, 100

January 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85, a Psalm we have prayed with seven times in the past six months. Have we wrung it dry, do you think?😉

Never! That’s the beauty of scripture and particularly of the Psalms. They speak to us in a new voice with each new day’s blessings and challenges.

The verse that grasps my heart this morning is this:

Near indeed is salvation to those who fear God
glory dwelling in our land.

Psalm 85: 10

What will “glory”, or well-being,
look like when it dwells in our land,
throughout our earth?


Walter Brueggemann, in his many writings about the Old Testament and the Psalms, stresses the concept of “neighborliness” as integral to communal well-being.

The well-being of the neighborhood, inspired by the biblical texts, makes possibleand even insists uponan alternative to the ideology of individualism that governs our society’s practice and policy. This kind of community life returns us to the arc of God’s giftsmercy, justice, and law. The covenant of God in the witness of biblical faith speaks now and demands that its interpreting community resist individualism, overcome commoditization, and thwart the rule of empire through a life of radical neighbor love.
(Description of Brueggemann’s book, God, Neighbor, Empire: The Excess of Divine Fidelity and the Command of Common Good)

Praying with Psalm 85, we might hear echos of President Biden’s Inaugural Address which called on our capacity for “neighborliness”:

History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.
We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.
We can treat each other with dignity and respect.
We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.
For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.
No progress, only exhausting outrage.
No nation, only a state of chaos.


The President also said this:

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, the saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.
What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?
I think I know.
Opportunity.
Security.
Liberty.
Dignity.
Respect.
Honor.
And, yes, the truth.


Thousands of years ago, the psalmist clearly described the glorious community which God promises to those who live in mercy, truth, justice and peace:

Mercy and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

The LORD  will give benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before the Lord,
and salvation, along the way of God’s pattern.

Psalm 85

Prose: Here is the quote from St. Augustine referenced by President Biden, as well as the passage from Cicero which inspired Augustine

If one should say, ‘a people is the association of a multitude of rational beings united by a common agreement on the objects of their love,’ then it follows that to observe the character of a people we must examine the objects of its love.”

St. Augustine, City of God 19.24

A republic is a numerous gathering brought together by legal consent and community of interest. The primary reason for this coming together is not so much weakness as a sort of innate desire on the part of human beings to form communities. For our species is not made up of solitary individuals.

Cicero, Republic, 1.39-40 

Music: After Cicero and Augustine, a little music from our own modern philosopher, Mr. Rogers❤️

Psalm 8: What Are We?

Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 8, a brief, beautiful, and highly personal hymn to an awesome Creator.

Charles Spurgeon, celebrated 19th century Baptist preacher, calls this psalm “the song of the Astronomer”, as gazing at the heavens inspires the psalmist to meditate on God’s creation and the human person’s place in it. 

The core of Psalm 8 asks a question:
What are we that you are mindful of us,
we humans that you care for us?

Psalm 8:5-6

Indeed, what are we, who are we? It is a question which each of us spends a lifetime answering.

If you were asked to introduce yourself to a total stranger, how would you begin?

  • With your name, expressing your unique identity?
  • Any group to which you belong?
  • Or where you’re from?
  • What you life work is?
  • Where you fit in society, to whom you are related?
  • How you have been defined by your accomplishments?

For example, might the self-introduction sound something like this:

Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely unintentional 🙂

Hi, I’m Mary Smith.
I’m a dentist, born and raised in Schenectady.
I wrote the book, “How Gumdrops Ruin Kid’s Teeth”.
You may have heard of my great-grandfather and his brother,
the cough drop magnates.


Psalm 8 suggests a whole other way of self-definition:

Hi, I’m Mary, a child of God, 
part of an infinite universe 
that spills from God’s creative love.
 
I am in awe of our Creator
who loves and cares for me,
who has ennobled me in grace.
I try to let all my actions give God praise.

I take seriously my role
in cherishing all Creation.
As I do this,
my own divinely-given nature is revealed
and made available to God 
for the transformation of the world.

I will sing of your majesty above the heavens
When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in plac
e.

What are we that you are mindful of us,
that you care for us?
Yet you have made us little less than angels
crowned us with glory and honor.


You have given us rule over the works of your hands, put all things at our feet:
O LORD, our Lord,
how awesome is your name through all the earth!


Poetry (well really prose): from Hamlet by William Shakespeare 

Shakespeare uses Psalm 8 as his reference point for Hamlet’s monologue.
Hamlet is saying that although humans may appear to think and act “nobly” they are essentially “dust”. Hamlet is expressing his melancholy to his old friends over the difference between the best that men aspire to be, and how they actually behave; the great divide that depresses him. (Spark Notes)

I offer the passage to say that Hamlet has become disillusioned, lost his awareness of his own awesome identity in God. Don’t be like Hamlet.

Hamlet, played by Edwin Booth – c.1870 (source: wikipedia)
I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, 
forgone all custom of exercises, 
and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition 
that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; 
this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, 
this brave o'erhanging firmament, 
this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—
why, it appears no other thing to me 
than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. 
What a piece of work is a man! 
How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! 
In form and moving how express and admirable! 
In action how like an angel, 
in apprehension how like a god! 
The beauty of the world. 
The paragon of animals. 
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? 
Man delights not me. 
No, nor woman neither, 
though by your smiling you seem to say so.

Music: Domine, Deus Noster (Psalm 8) by Marc-Antoine Charpentier