Father Mark, Reflections

Psalm 117

Being different, we are spiritually fed by different parts of the liturgy such as music, Communion, the scripture readings, (dare I say the “sermon”) and so on.   One member told me the least favorite part of the liturgy are the Psalms which is why this person chose Psalm 117.  Psalm 117 has two verses, is the shortest psalm and scripture reading in the Bible while Psalm 119 has 176 verses. 

Sometimes our shortest prayers are our most sincere ones, either because we cannot put in words what we are experiencing within or because time is short such as in the prayer of Baron Jacob Astley before the battle of Edge Hill in the English Civil War in 1642: “O Lord! Thou knowest how busy I must be this day: if I forget thee, do not thou forget me.”   

Even though brief, this psalm contains an expansion of Israel’s faith in that the exhortation is to invite all nations and peoples to praise the Lord.  This insight expands the range of the God of Israel to the collective understanding that God is the God of all, whose kindness is offered to all. 

When is the last time you have been overwhelmed by the kindness of another?  I mean really humbled by it where words of thank you were difficult to find in order to convey?   When can we remember a time when we experienced the kindness of God? 

The psalmist also declares that Yahweh’s “steadfast truth is forever.”  In a world where the attempt to relativize truth has been attempted to suit the convenience of individuals and groups the psalmist declares that the steadfast truth of God has existed forever, long before and after nouveau social theories come and go like the grass of the field that is here today and gone tomorrow (Matt 6:30).

The word, truth, from its Hebrew inception means to “sustain or support” and is “firm, solid, tested and reliable.”   These are not abstract properties because truth carries the capacity to keep individuals or society intact and whole.   I find it fascinating that Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?”  Here is Pilate, face to face with Jesus.  Jesus remains silent.  We can only ponder why.   After years of pondering and listening to this passage, my hypothesis is that if Pilate could not see “Living Truth,” in the person of Jesus standing right in front of him, no words that Jesus could have said would have mattered.  Yahweh is truth.  This differs from Greek philosophy which is at the center of western culture today.  Greek philosophy holds truth to be a concept which describes a particular fact that could be demonstrated and the right thinking to explain it.  For the Judeo-Christian, truth is not simply relegated to mere fact, but is the living presence of the Divine One whose order reaches from earth to the heavens.  Truth is an intrinsic Divine Energy of a Living God that pervades the universe (John 5:33, 18:37 and I John 5:20), including us.

I observe the media and professional literature for example who ring the alarm about the crisis of increasing suicides in youth and in across age groups.   Panic exudes through this media that “we have to do something!” to arrest the problem by creating more services, more assessments (I experienced this in more redundant paperwork in mental health when I practiced as a therapist in Tennessee).  No one asks the question:  “What is the reason(s) youth and the greater population is so unstable at this time?’  What’s missing so that they are unable to cope with life?   What do you think?  What truth would give them stability, support, firmness, solidity and reliability?   Is there a Living Truth that could make a difference?   I am not relegating this to the realm of simplicity as mental and spiritual health is a complicated and intricate phenomenon unique to each individual yet there are dynamics that hold veracity across the board.

As a buffoon that Peter often was, Jesus called him “Cephas” the rock.  Rocks are stable and not easily moved.  Truth is the life of God that is available to move through us, with great holding power.  Truth is not an “it,” a mere concept.  Truth is the Spirit of Christ moving through our hearts, mind and wills. 

That’s a lot for two verses of a Psalm. 

What’s your favorite psalm?   Let me know.

In the Holy Truth of the Divine One,

Fr. Mark