Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 146, a call to praise God. The call is supported by the particular verses of today’s reading. We should praise God, the psalmist says, because God:
secures justice for the oppressed
gives food to the hungry
sets captives free
gives sight to the blind
raises up the humble
loves the just
sustains fatherless and the widow
thwarts the way of the wicked
Reading this elaborate hymn of praise makes one think the Lord was pretty busy in ancient Israel. Were all these good things happening for otherwise unfortunate people?
For me, this psalm, rather than being a retrospective list of God’s generous accomplishments, is a call to realize the way God wants things to be. Within that call is another deeper call – to become an agent for God’s Will for good. In other words, God acts through us to make God’s mercy real in the world through the ways the psalm describes.
The loving will of God is always turning the world toward good. But sometimes our lack of faith inhibits our insight into that holy turning. Sometimes we see only the surface of life and get caught in its tangles.
Prayer is the ointment that releases our inner vision to find God in all things, either calling us to foster good or to thwart evil, as our psalm describes. As we cooperate with this call, God’s everlasting creative action opens before us and we see the world, and our role in it, with new eyes.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 146, the first of five final concluding praise Psalms in the Psalter. This is one of six Psalms involving preaching to self, where the evocative phrase “O my soul” is used. (Psalms 42, 43, 103, 104, 116 and 146)
Do you ever talk to your soul like that? You know, “Wake up”. “Don’t be afraid!”, “Stop thinking about yourself.”, “Get over it”. These prayers come out of our scarcity, and our longing for fullness, security and peace. We recognize there is something so much more infinite to love than the malaise we are entangled in.
As we pray the Psalms of Praise, particularly these five, we are invited to live out of our abundance rather than our scarcity. That “abundance attitude” is rooted in God’s infinite mercy and generosity, God Who is always creating fullness of life for God’s creatures:
The Maker of heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them, Who keeps faith forever …
Psalm 146 recommends that, when we slip into attitudes of scarcity, we need to talk to ourselves – not that worrisome mumbling that constantly replays our troubles and annoyances. Instead, we should counsel ourselves to remember and trust in God’s faithfulness to us, asking to be big-hearted:
Praise the LORD, O my soul; I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live.
So today, Psalm 146 tells us to change our mental tapes if we have to. If there is a strain of worry, ingratitude, unholy self-reliance or any other negativity plaguing our prayer, let’s eject it.
Let’s replace it with the sacred conversation that begins and ends with: “Thank You” “I trust You” “My souls praises You”, “I am at peace in You.” “How could I ever thank You enough for loving me!
“Poetry: Prayers for the Protection and Opening of the Heart – Ya’akov Hakohen, translated by Peter Cole Ya’akov Hakohen belonged to a circle of Jewish mystics that was active in mid-thirteenth-century Castile and Provence.
May the Name send its hidden radiance
to open the gates of deliverance
to His servants—and shine in their hearts,
which now are shut in silent darkness.
May the great King be moved
to act in perfection and righteousness—
to open the gates of wisdom for us
and waken the love of old, the love of ancient days.
By the power of the hidden Name I-am-that-I-am,
and by the dew of Desire and Blessing, the dead will live again...
I-Am is the power of your Name in concealment,
and one who knows its mystery dwells in eternity’s instant.
Over the world, it pours forth abundance and favor,
and on it all worlds hang, like grapes in a cluster.
Send the dew of blessing, the dew of grace;
renew my dispensation, and grant me length of days.
Bring light to my eyes with your teaching, and let not the husks
that surround your hosts obstruct me.
May Heaven and Adam’s children judge me with mercy.
Sustain me with their strength and fortune—
but do not leave me in need of the gifts of men.
Music: Praise the Lord, My Soul – John Foley, SJ
1… Praise the lord, my soul, Let fire and rain give praise to Him, Give praise to Him who is merciful, slow to judge; Bless the lord, O my soul!
2…Bless the Lord, my soul, Let all I am give praise to Him, And not forget he is kind, He forgives our sins; Bless the Lord, O my soul!
3… Merciful and kind, He knows that man is made of dust, And like the flowers that flourish he soon must die; Bless the Lord, O my soul!
4…Glory to our God, Let all that is give praise to Him, Give praise all you creatures who live His love, Bless the Lord, O my soul, Bless the Lord, O my soul!