Monday, March 19, 2018

Psalm for Passion Sunday, March 25, 2018


“They have pierced my hands 
and my feet.”

David writes this psalm almost 
as though it were planned to be 
part of the Passion of Christ.
It is as though David knew what 
was coming.  The Psalm's theme 
is that the sufferings of the 
righteous man will restore life 
to humanity.

Indeed the Psalm becomes the 
prayer of Christ at the time of His 
crucifixion and speaks of the 
suffering that our Savior 
experienced on our behalf,
“My God, my God, why have 
you abandoned me?”

People are the same today as they 
were back then, when Jesus was being led to the cross.  
We scoff at him; 
we mock him; we wag our heads; 
and hurl insults at him.

Because he becomes contemptible in our eyes.  
He reminds us that we are a sinful people; 
He convicts us; He catches us in the lie; 
He embarrasses us; He exposes us; 
He accuses us of being hypocrites.  

He holds us to a higher standard;
He speaks directly to God; 
He claims to be God's Son,
and we reject him for this, and mock him.  
We do not move to assist him. 
Let God rescue him, 
“He relied on the Lord; let God deliver him;
 let God rescue him, if he loves him.” 

These are the same words used by those who conspired 
against Jesus when he was dying on the cross.  (Mark 15: 31-32)
They did not realize that the suffering and death 
of an innocent servant would restore life for sinful man.  
The words they spoke were to be fulfilled, not by Jesus 
coming down from the cross, but by sinful humanity like us 
being delivered, forgiven, and lifted up.  

The psalm describes the Passion of Christ, and we know 
that what seemed like a moment of weakness for Christ
became a source of strength for the rest of us.  
God reverses this righteous man’s condition –
“But you, O Lord, be not far from me; 
O my help, hasten to aid me.”

Hope returns, the righteous man is delivered.
And he celebrates his deliverance--
“I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you: 
You who fear the Lord, praise him.”
Because Jesus humbled himself and accepted death 
on the cross, “God greatly exalted him and bestowed 
on him the name that is above every name.” (Philippians 2:9)


Discussion Questions for Reflection

1.  The psalmist speaks of those who scoff at him and mock him. 
 In what way can you identify with those who scoff at our Savior
 and mock him with parted lips? 

2.  The Psalm Response is, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"   

Why do you think our Lord would have uttered these words at the time 
of his Passion?  What had changed for God's son?  Had God changed?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Psalm for Sunday, March 18, 2018

Psalm 51:  3-4, 12-13, 14-15   (Read)

“Create a clean heart in me, O God.”                                                                         

This Sunday's Psalm is David’s mea culpa  
and is written after Nathan calls attention 
to David’s adultery with Bathsheba.  We are 
shown in the Psalm that although David was 
chosen by God to be king, even David sins 
gravely.  But God in His compassion and 
goodness can blot out David’s offense, 
no matter how grave.

David realizes that only God, in His mercy,
can cleanse David from his sins.
  David’s sins, 
like our own, are offensive to God first and 
foremost; we are all born of a sinful nature.
David calls on the Lord to blot out his offense,
knowing that the Lord, in His abundant 
compassion, will wash away his guilt.

David’s words are a prayer of repentance and recall 
for us the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“A clean heart create for me, O God; renew within me 
a steadfast spirit. Give me back the joy of your salvation.”
Where else can we turn when we are separated from God?
Who else has the healing power to cleanse us?

“Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me 
your Holy Spirit.”  David reminds us that without the Holy 
Spirit we are ruled by the desires of this world.  And without 
the Holy Spirit we cannot bear the fruits of the Spirit,
which we are called to do.

The people of Jeremiah’s time were given the assurance 
that David sought. They were assured that the Lord would 
forgive their evildoing, their own infidelity to God, and that 
their sin would be remembered no more. (Jeremiah 31:34)
On David's part we can almost hear his loud cries and see 
his tears, as he offers this psalm as prayer and seeks his 
own inner renewal.  When Christ was in the flesh, this is 
how He himself prayed, as we are reminded in Sunday's 
second reading. (Hebrews 5:7)

David prays that God will create for him a clean heart,
because God alone can bring about this transformation.
We, too, are called to seek our Savior’s mercy for our sinful 
ways, especially during this Lenten season.  We, too, are 
given an opportunity to be restored in the joy of His Salvation, 
to offer up what is dead within us, so that we can again bear 
fruit and be good witnesses for the Lord. (John 12: 24)
In that way, we will then teach the wicked, 
God's ways,  
and our mouths will proclaim His praise.


Discussion Questions for Reflection

1.  Our psalmist King David cites the greatness of the Lord's compassion in calling 
upon God to wipe out his offense.  Even though David was an adulterer and 
a murderer, he knew that he could call upon the Lord to restore him and create 
for him a clean heart.   Does this give you confidence that no matter how serious 
your sins may be, you can call upon God to be thoroughly cleansed?   Explain.

2.  As our psalmist implies, it is not enough to call upon God to create a clean 
heart within us.  We must also ask for a steadfast spirit, for the Holy Spirit to be 
sustained within us.  Tell how the Holy Spirit is working within you and what you 
are inspired to do through the gifts of the Spirit.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Psalm for Sunday, March 11, 2018

Psalm 137: 1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

“How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?”

This Sunday's Psalm is a prayer of the Jewish people 
in exile in Babylon.  As Sunday's 1st reading tells us,
the Lord became angry with the people of Judah
because of their many infidelities.  (2 Chronicles 36:14-16)
And when they mocked the messenger of God,
God allowed them to be carried off to Babylon as slaves.
“By the rivers of Babylon, we sat mourning and weeping.”

But God's chosen people could not forget Jerusalem
and the covenant God had made with them.  “If I forget 

you Jerusalem, may my right hand wither.  May my tongue 
stick to my palate  if I do not remember you.”   And more 
important, God did not forget them.

It is the same way with us.  We sin against God and He 

allows us to be carried off into a kind of self imposed exile,
where we separate ourselves from Him for a time.

“How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?”
When our hearts are hardened by sin, how can we sing 

a song of the Lord?   When we are in the darkness because 
we prefer the darkness, how can we sing a song of the Lord?
When we are separated from the Lord and indulging in things 

of the world, how can we sing a song of the Lord?
It is only when we are in the light,  then can we sing a song 

of the Lord.

As Sunday’s 2nd reading tells us, “Even when we are dead in our 

transgressions, God brings us to life with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:5)

And the Gospel reminds us in a powerful way that although we 

are a wicked people who hate the light, God sent His Son not to 
condemn us, but to save us and lead us into the light. (John 3: 17-21)
That is how we free ourselves from our own spiritual exile.
It is only when we are in the light, when we become a light unto 

the world, then can we sing a song of the Lord!


Discussion Questions for Reflection

1.  This Sunday's Psalm Response is,
 "Let my tongue be silenced, 
if I ever forget you!"  
When you are separated from God because of sin, have you noticed how it becomes difficult to praise and worship Him?   In a way your tongue becomes silenced for a time.  
Explain how you can get your voice back and start again singing a song of the Lord.

2.  Our psalmist tells us that it was difficult for the Jewish people captive 
in Babylon to sing 
the songs of Zion in a foreign land. Is it sometimes difficult for you to speak of your faith 
in the company of non-believers?    If you are being persecuted by a world that does not 
acknowledge you as one of its own, how do you overcome your reticence and speak boldly 
of your faith?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Psalm for Sunday, March 4, 2018


“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.” 

This Sunday's Psalm celebrates the law of the Lord, 
first given to the Israelites that day on Mt. Sinai in the 
desert when Moses received God's commandments.
(Exodus 20:1-17)
As the Psalm says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, 
refreshing the soul.”

But more than a set of rules that we cannot hope 
to follow, God’s commandments give us wisdom; 
they ‘rejoice our hearts; they are more desirable 
than gold, sweeter also than honey.’

The Word is the same way; even though we may be 
convicted by the Word, our Savior Lord Jesus came 
to fulfill the law and make us right with the Lord.
And just as the disciples came to believe in the 
scriptures when Jesus was raised, we too know 
Him as the ‘Word made flesh,’ the one who 
perfected the ‘wisdom of God.’

Our Psalmist David shows us that obeying the law 
does not prevent us from being happy.  Instead, 
obeying the Law “brings much reward.”
We may think of statutes as something intended 
to control us or restrict us, but as our psalmist 
explains, the law of the Lord is in fact a source of joy, 
something to be desired, because the law gives us 
wisdom and provides us with something
we can trust.

Today’s Psalm tells us about the joy that is stirred u
in our hearts when we follow the Lord’s commands.
“The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.”
The Word and the statutes endure forever.
They are refreshing to the soul; they enlighten the eye. 
It is through the Word that we know His commandments
and through this Psalm that we know His law is a source 
of refreshment, a source of joy.
His statutes do not bind us, they set us free.  


Discussion Questions for Reflection

1.  Our psalmist says that the ordinances of the Lord are 'sweeter than honey.'   

How can it be that, instead of being harsh, the commandments of the Lord 
are sweet to the taste?  Explain.

2.  Our psalmist says that the commandments of the Lord are a source of joy --

they 'rejoice the heart.'   Tell about how obeying the commandments can be a 
source of joy in your life.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Psalm for Sunday, February 25, 2018


"Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death 
of His faithful ones."

The verses of this Sunday's Psalm are words 
Abraham might have prayed when he was 
called on to sacrifice his son Isaac.
“I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving; 
I will pay my vows to the Lord.”  
Who else could have kept the faith at a time 
like that?   Yet Abraham’s devotion to the Lord 
did not waver.  (Genesis 22:10-12)
We may not be called upon to offer up 
so heavy a sacrifice, but we are commanded 
to listen to God’s son, and to imitate Him.

Abraham may have used words like those 

of our psalmist, “I believed even when I said, 
‘I am greatly afflicted.'”  
God relented and provided a substitute 
for Isaac,  “Too costly in the eyes of the Lord 
is the death of His faithful ones.”

But God did not spare His own son, 

as St Paul reminds us in Sunday's 2nd reading. 
(Romans 8:32)
And for whom did God sacrifice His son Jesus?  
It was for us that God handed over His 
beloved Son.  Jesus’ death on the cross has 
given us life; as people of faith we are chosen 
by God for life.  We pray that we are not put 
to the test as Abraham was, but we might 
at least, as the Psalm says, 
“Pay our vows to the Lord in the presence 
of all His people.”

The psalmist says, “O Lord, I am your servant; 

you have loosed my bonds.”   We too are made free 
by becoming the Lord's servant.  That is how it is when 
we follow His commandments and do His will.  
It is not something that binds us.  Rather, it is something 
that sets us free.
We take delight in serving the Lord.


Discussion Questions for Reflection

1.  Our psalmist speaks of the power of his faith, even in the darkest of times,
"I believed, even when I said, 'I am greatly afflicted.'"   Give an example of
 how your faith has strengthened you in difficult times.

2.  The Psalm says, 'O Lord, I am your servant; you have loosed my bonds.'
Explain how it is that, having been freed from your chains, you wish to serve
the Lord and become yoked to Him.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Psalm for Sunday, February 18, 2018


“Good and upright is the Lord, 
He shows sinners the way.”

This Sunday's Psalm is 
a prayer for forgiveness 
and guidance, a good 
way to begin the season 
of Lent.  Our psalmist 
David recalls the covenant 
the Lord made with Noah 
(Genesis 9: 8-15)and David 
writes, “Remember your 
compassion and love, 
O Lord, for they are ages old.”

Later in the psalm David affirms, 
“Good and upright is the Lord, 
thus He shows sinners the way.”  
Who else could lead us out of the pit 
of our sins but God’s Son, the righteous 
one who suffered for us, the unrighteous 
ones, as St Peter reminds us in this 
Sunday's second reading. 
(1 Peter 3:18-22)  
Peter says Baptism doesn’t remove 
the dirt from our bodies; it doesn’t 
remove our sinful nature.  But it does 
allow us to receive the Holy Spirit 
within us, because without the Spirit, 
we are powerless against the devil.

We are blessed to have a God who 
does not disregard us.  On the contrary, 
He is a caring, compassionate God, 
willing to humble himself to share in 
our humanity, so that we might come 
to share in His divinity.  Who else 
would have such regard for sinners, 
for believers who disobey him?  
It is He who encourages us when our 
tongues confess – “The Lord guides the 
humble rightly, and teaches the humble 
His way.”

In this Sunday's Gospel, our Lord Jesus 
tells us what we are to do as we prepare 
for the most important season of the year,  
“Repent and believe in the Gospel.”  (Mark 1:15)
And in response we join with our psalmist 
and say, “You are God my Savior.”


Discussion Questions for Reflection  

1.  Our Psalm speaks of being taught by the Lord ("Teach me your paths; guide me 

in your truth and teach me; He teaches the humble His way.")   Are you a good student of the Lord?  Tell about what you have learned or are learning from the Lord.

2.  Our psalmist says, "The Lord shows sinners the way."  As we enter the season 

of Lent, we could all use some guidance and help as we strive for repentance and 
to be bolder in our faith.  Explain what you will do during Lent to become a more 
obedient Christian and a better witness for your faith.