Friday, July 17, 2015

Dismayed, Downhearted? There's a Psalm for That.

Are you worrrying about the decline of civilization, about increasing violence and never ending wars, about the moral implosion of our nation, and about the nonstop sneering at Christians and Christianity that we seem to hear on a daily basis in the media? Are you wondering at how a (superficially at least) Christian society could seem to crumble overnight? 

There's a psalm for that. Several, in fact. Especially on Fridays. This is the day that we who have the privilege of  praying the Liturgy of the Hours get to unite ourselves in a profound way to the suffering Christ. In praying these psalms we give voice to Jesus in His agony, both as it took place 2000 years ago and as it still happens today in the members of His Body, the Church. 

To refresh your memory,since now it is evening and you did Office of Readings hours ago, here are some excerpts from Psalm 68

I have sunk into the mud of the deep *
and there is no foothold.
I have entered the waters of the deep *
and the waves overwhelm me...

...More numerous than the hairs on my head *
are those who hate me without cause.
Those who attack me with lies *
are too much for my strength...

...Let those who hope in you not be put to shame *
through me, Lord of hosts:
let not those who seek you be dismayed *
through me, God of Israel...

When I afflict my soul with fasting *
they make it a taunt against me.
When I put on sackcloth in mourning *
then they make me a byword,
the gossip of men at the gates, *
the subject of drunkards’ songs....I have reached the end of my strength.
I looked in vain for compassion, *
for consolers; not one could I find.

For food they gave me poison; *
in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

But then, look how Psalm 69 ends:
I will praise God’s name with a song; *
I will glorify him with thanksgiving,
a gift pleasing God more than oxen, *
more than beasts prepared for sacrifice.

The poor when they see it will be glad *
and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy *
and does not spurn his servants in their chains.
Let the heavens and the earth give him praise, *
the sea and all its living creatures.

For God will bring help to Zion *
and rebuild the cities of Judah
and men shall dwell there in possession. 
The sons of his servants shall inherit it; *
those who love his name shall dwell there.

Notice how that ends--in hope, trust, confidence, and praise. That's our model for prayer no matter what happens to us or the world around us. 

Morning Prayer, opening as always with the Miserere  (psalm 51) forces us to acknowledge our own part in the sorrows of the world. But that admission, humiliating as it is, is freeing. Again there is confidence that my tongue shall ring our His goodness and my mouth shall declare His praise, despite everything I have done. 

Daytime Prayer is  Psalm 22, Jesus' cry from the cross. The pain and desolation is real there, too. But look how that one ends--with ultimate triumph.

 There's not much more I can say. These psalms speak for themselves. They are a prophecy of the Passion, the sufferings of the Church, and the meaning of suffering for every believer.  Yes, it gets pretty bad. But we are promised that all will come right, and more than right, in the end.