Psalm 69: Stuck!

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

August 1, 2020

Today, in Mercy, we pray for the light of God’s Word in our hearts. God speaks to us in all things. Sometimes, all we need to do is ask God, “What are You saying to me in this circumstance?” Then listen for Love. The answer is always wrapped in Love – and Love is not always easy.

Thought from 2016, Friday of the 17th Week

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 69.  In today’s accompanying readings, Jeremiah and John the Baptist are living out the meaning.of the psalm.

Each of these great prophets has been ensnared by the civic evil of their times, personified in Old Testament princes and New Testament Herod and Herodias. The power structure surrounding each prophet stood in direct contradiction to their witness to God’s Word. Those structures, when confronted with a sacred truth, tried to overwhelm the messenger, like quicksand swallows an innocent traveler.

Rescue me out of the mire; may I not sink!
may I be rescued from my foes,
and from the watery depths.
Let not the flood-waters overwhelm me,
nor the abyss swallow me up,
nor the pit close its mouth over me.


The psalm raises to our prayer the reality that such struggles continue in our time. We live in a wonderful but still sinful world where every person decides, everyday, where he or she will stand in the contest between good and evil.

The decision is sometimes very clear. At other times, the waters are so muddied with lies, propaganda, greed, fear, bias. and unexamined privilege that we feel mired in confusion or resistance.

But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 69 throws us a rescue line in today’s final verse:

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds God spurns not.

The steady path to truth lies with those who seek God among the humble and poor. The humble are the ones through whom the Lord speaks. They are God’s own. Jeremiah and the Baptist understood this truth and preached it by their lives.

We might examine our lives today in the light of their witness and the message of this challenging psalm.


Poetry:  Beginners – Denise Levertov


‘From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea—‘


But we have only begun
to love the earth.
We have only begun
to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?
—so much is in bud.
How can desire fail?
—we have only begun
to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,
too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.

Music:  The Cry of the Poor – John Foley, SJ

Psalm 69: Answer Me, O Lord

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

July 31, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 69, a heart-felt lament whose verses are often paralleled with the sufferings of Jesus.

I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
Because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.

Psalm 69: 9

Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written,
“The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me”.

Roman 15: 3

Praying with Psalm 69 this morning, and in the light of both our first reading and Gospel, I am aware of how God’s prophets suffer to proclaim mercy, justice, and truth.

Jeremiah suffered in the hope and conviction that God imagined a future of justice for all God’s people. He stood in the midst of the Temple worshippers and condemned their pretense of righteousness.

Jesus stood at the center of his hometown synagogue to proclaim that the long hoped-for redemption had come. But like Jeremiah’s listeners, Jesus’s neighbors also turned on him.

In our own lifetimes, we see the persecution and hatred which is leveled at modern prophets who call the world to justice and mercy. Even within our own Church, we see how Pope Francis is vilified by those whose privileged excesses are threatened by his charity.


As I write this reflection, our country celebrates the life of one of its noblest prophets, the sainted John Lewis. In the image of all the great Justice Witnesses, John endured incredible suffering for the sake of people’s dignity and freedom. He was able to do so because, like Jeremiah and Jesus, he didn’t look inward at his wounds. He looked outward for the redemption of others … the prize of justice:

Never give up, never give in, never give out. 
Keep the faith, and keep your eyes on the prize. 
Together, we can redeem the soul of America.

John Lewis

Let us pray today that the voices of true prophets may be heard and heeded. In this age when technology and social media can quickly disseminate vitriol, hatred, and conspiracy, let us pray for discerning hearts and courageous wills.

But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.

Psalm 69; 14

Poetry: Prophet by Carl Dennis

Prophet
You'll never be much of a prophet if, when the call comes
To preach to Nineveh, you flee on the ship for Tarshish
That Jonah fled on, afraid like him of the people's outrage
Were they to hear the edict that in thirty days
Their city in all its glory will be overthrown.

The sea storm that harried Jonah won't harry you.
No big fish will be waiting to swallow you whole
And keep you down in the dark till your mood
Shifts from fear to thankfulness and you want to serve.
No. You'll land safe at Tarshish and learn the language
And get a job in a countinghouse by the harbor
And marry and raise a family you can be proud of
In a neighborhood not too rowdy for comfort.

If you're going to be a prophet, you must listen the first time.
Setting off at sunrise, you can't be disheartened
If you arrive at Nineveh long past midnight,
On foot, your donkey having run off with your baggage.
You'll have to settle for a room in the cheapest hotel
And toss all night on the lice-ridden mattress
That Jonah is spared. In the space of three sentences
He jumps from his donkey, speaks out, and is heeded, while you,

Preaching next day in the rain on a noisy corner,
Are likely to be ignored, outshouted by old-clothes dealers
And fishwives, mocked by schoolboys for your accent.
And then it's a week in jail for disturbing the peace.
There you'll have time, as you sit in a dungeon
Darker than a whale's belly, to ask if the trip
Is a big mistake, the heavenly voice mere mood,

The mission a fancy. Jonah's biggest complaint
Is that God, when the people repent and ask forgiveness,
Is glad to forgive them and cancels the doomsday
Specified in the prophecy, leaving his prophet
To look like a fool. So God takes time to explain
How it's wrong to want a city like this one to burn,
How a prophet's supposed to redeem the future,
Not predict it. But you'll be left with the question
Why your city's been spared when nobody's different,

Nobody in the soup kitchen you open,
Though one or two of the hungriest
May be grateful enough for the soup to listen
When you talk about turning their lives around.
It will be hard to believe these are the saving remnant
Kin to the ten just men that would have sufficed
To save Gomorrah if Abraham could have found them.

You'll have to tell them frankly you can't explain
Why Nineveh is still standing though you hope to learn
At the feet of a prophet who for all you know
May be turning his donkey toward Nineveh even now.
[from Practical Gods (2001)

Music: Lord, in Your Great Love – Orchard Enterprises

Psalm 69: Snapping Out on God

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 21, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 69 which Brueggemann describes as

“a script for unburdening negation in God’s presence. It is a script for rehabilitation to the community of praise and thanks.”

Walter Bruggemann: From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

This Sunday’s reading are not happy ones. Jeremiah is plagued by his persecutors. Romans describes the reign of sin and death before Christ’s act of redemption. And, in our Gospel, Jesus tells his followers not to be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul!

Guess what! Despite the Gospel’s advice, I am afraid of that kind of stuff — persecution, sin, evil, murder…. and all the other terrible consequences in the larger reading of all of Psalm 69.

And guess what else. The psalmist is not only afraid. He is angry… and I mean infuriated, outraged and massively ticked off.

No one wants to listen to him about his grievances either so who gets an earful? Yes, you got it — God. 


In verses 22-28, the writer spews a line of curses for his enemies. And they’re masterpieces — very satisfying ideations if you ever find yourself in similar straits.

But that’s the whole beauty of this psalm. All the negativity remains in the prayer’s imagination. It is not acted out. Once vehemently expressed to God, the catharsis slowly evolves to healing. This happens because the complaining psalmist all of a sudden realizes to Whom he is complaining — the Merciful One, the Patient One, the Forgiving One who has given all these generosities repeatedly to him.

I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
Answer me, O LORD, for bounteous is your kindness;
in your great mercy turn toward me.


Seeing God’s Face turn toward him in prayer, the psalmist regains balance. The final verse of the psalm rests on the hope and confidence God has promised in the covenantal relationship.

For God will rescue Zion,
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
They will dwell there and possess it
the descendants of God’s servants will inherit it;
those who love God’s name will dwell in it.


Anger visits all of us, sometimes in response to persecution, misunderstanding or disrespect. We feel it for personal grievances and for meanness in the world toward the helpless.  Praying with Psalm 69 may help us, too, find our balance, as did the psalmist, so that the anger leads to wholeness rather than destruction.


Poetry: Time’s Lesson – Emily Dickinson

Mine enemy is growing old, —
I have at last revenge.
The palate of the hate departs;
If any would avenge, —

Let him be quick, the viand flits,
It is a faded meat.
Anger as soon as fed is dead;
'T is starving makes it fat.

Music: Liberty and Justice for All – Brandon Williams