Psalm 18: God’s Right Here

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

March 26, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 18. It is a royal psalm, full of triumph, praise and rejoicing. But the psalmist, presumably David, never forgets the depths from which he has been delivered. He remembers the “storm” from which he called out to God.

 

The psalmist imagines God, in the distant temple, hearing his cry and responding. The image brought to my mind the memory of an early morning prayer time when I was a very young nun. 

An hour or so before dawn, I looked out my window to the morning star, imagining God out there in the heavens. Like David, I presumed God was distant and needed to be called into my experience. But, on that morning, I realized that God was not distant – that God was within me, my life, and the very storm I was praying about.

I still love to look out to the stars while I pray. But since that morning, I imagine God sitting beside me, enjoying the same beauty – sorting through my life with me from within my own heart. Verse 29 makes me think that David came to a similar realization:


Poetry: Go Not to the Temple – Ravindranath Tagore

Go not to the temple to put flowers upon the feet of God,
First fill your ownhouse with the Fragrance of love and kindness. 

Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God,
First remove the darkness of sin , pride and ego, 
from your heart…

Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer,
First learn to bow in humility before your fellowmen.
And apologize to those you have wronged. 

Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees,
First bend down to lift someone who is down-trodden.
And strengthen the young ones. 
Not crush them.

Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins,
First forgive from your heart those who have hurt you!


Music: Christ Be Beside Me – St. Patrick’s Breastplate adapted by Michael Foscher

A Love in Troubled Times

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

April 3, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, as we inch closer to Holy Week, we meet both a very troubled Jeremiah and Jesus.

V0034343 The prophet Jeremiah wailing alone on a hill. Engraving.
The Prophet Jeremiah Weeping Alone on a Hill (from the Wellcome Trust)

Jeremiah, the Old Testament mirror of Jesus’s sufferings, bewails the treachery even of his friends:

I hear the whisperings of many:
“Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!”
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.

That’s really raw, because you can get through almost anything in the company of true friends.


 

Jesus weeps
Jesus Weeping Over Jerusalem by Ary Scheffer (1795-1858)

Jesus came as a Friend and hoped to find Friends of God by his ministry. And he did find many. But not all.

It takes some work to be a true friend of Jesus. Some didn’t have the courage, or generosity, or passion, or hopeful imagination to reach past their self-protective boundaries – to step into eternal life even as they walked the time-bound earth.

In today’s Gospel this band of resisters project their fears and doubts to the crowds around them. The evil sparks light the ready tinder of human selfishness. The mob turns on Jesus, spiritual misers scoffing at the generous challenge to believe.

Jesus pleads with them to realize what they are doing:

If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

But Jesus and Jeremiah, though troubled, are grounded in God. Our Responsorial Psalm captures what might have been their silent prayer:

Psalm18 distress

The following transliteration of Psalm 18, composed by Christine Robinson, might help us to be with Jesus in his moment, and in our own moments of fear, anxiety, or doubt.

I open my heart to you, O God
for you are my strength, my fortress,
the rock on whom I build my life.

I have been lost in my fears and my angers
caught up in falseness, fearful, and furious
I cried to you in my anguish.
You have brought me to an open space.
You saved me because you took delight in me.
I try to be good, to be just, to be generous
to walk in your ways.
I fail, but you are my lamp.
You make my darkness bright
With your help, I continue to scale the walls
and break down the barriers that fragment me.
I would be whole, and happy, and wise
and know your love
Always.

Music: Overcome – Psalm 18 by James Block