Psalm 5: A Deep Groan

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

June 15, 2020

Click here for readings.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 5, a psalm of lament.

Do you ever get really fed up with the world, to a point that you can’t even put into words? If so, and when, Psalm 5 is your psalm.

David can’t even describe how disgusted he is with the evil around him. As is his custom, he wants to tell God all about it, but he can’t find words enough to do so. The best he can do is groan!

My own heart has sounded such a prayer many times. Hasn’t yours? 

Sometimes, it’s a petty prayer, frustrated with individuals or myself. But usually such a groan rises from a more global consciousness:

  • When we see bombed out and weeping children on the evening news
  • When wanton violence infects our city streets
  • When clerical and other institutional sex abuse is uncovered
  • When suffering refugees are rebuffed, caged, and abused
  • When human beings are degraded and persecuted because of their race, sexual identity, ethnicity, or personal traits
  • Whenever people with power exploit it for their own deceitful self-interest 

We could go on and on, couldn’t we? We know what David felt like when he arose and offered his morning prayer:

At dawn I bring my plea expectantly before you.
For you, O God, delight not in wickedness;
no evil man remains with you;
the arrogant may not stand in your sight.

David is confident that, ultimately, God will not abide such evil, and that gives him hope:

You hate all evildoers.
You destroy all who speak falsehood;
The bloodthirsty and the deceitful
the LORD abhors.

But in the meantime, how will David stand up in the face of it all?

This is the very question that gnaws at us as we find ourselves in a place of “groaning” prayer. How do we respond to evil with good?

The final verse of Psalm 5, not included in today’s response, offers an answer:

For you, LORD, bless the just one;
you surround that person with favor like a shield.

By our choices and our actions, we must become a “just one”. Doing so, we give God the instrument to bring right-balance to Creation.

Then all who trust in you will be glad
and forever shout for joy.

You will protect them and those will rejoice in you
who love your name. (Psalm 5:12)

Living justice is hard work. Such enduring labor will draw many a prayerful sigh from us. But always, like David, if we work patiently, we can be confident:

For to you I will pray, LORD;
in the morning you will hear my voice;

in the morning I will plead before you and wait.

Poem: The Weighing – Jane Hirshfield 

The heart’s reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.

Music: Psalm 5 – Chuck Girard