Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Psalm for April 1, 2012, Palm Sunday


Psalm 22:  8-9,  17-18,  19-20,  23-24

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
when Christ was crucified.
Its theme is that the sufferings
of the righteous man
will restore life to humanity.
The Psalm also becomes the prayer of Christ
at the time of his crucifixion
and speaks of the suffering that our Savior
experienced on our behalf.

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 him deliver him;
 let him 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.  
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.”


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 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?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Psalm for Sunday, March 25, 2012


 Psalm 51:  3-4, 12-13, 14-15

This Psalm is perhaps David’s greatest prayer,
his mea culpa, after Nathan comes to him
to call 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 him from his sin.
He calls on the Lord to blot out his offense,
knowing that the Lord, in his abundant compassion,
will wash away his guilt.
David’s sins, like our own,
are offensive to God first and foremost –
we are all born of a sinful nature

David’s words are a prayer of repentance
and recall for us the power of the Sacrament of Confession.
“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 it we cannot bear the fruits of the Spirit,
which we are called to do.

The people of Jeremiah’s time (in the 1st reading)
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.
We can almost hear David’s loud cries
and see his tears, as he offers this prayer
and seeks his own inner renewal.
When Christ was in the flesh, this is how he himself prayed,
as we are reminded in the 2nd reading.

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 (per the Gospel)
we can again bear fruit and be good witnesses for the Lord.
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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Psalm for Sunday, March 18, 2012


Psalm 137:  1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

This Psalm is a song of the chosen people in exile in Babylon.
As our 1st reading (2nd Chronicles)  tells us, the Lord became angry with the Israelites because of their many infidelities.
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 they could not forget Jerusalem
and the covenant God had made with them.
“If I forget you Jerusalem, may my right hand wither.”
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.

“But how could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?”
When our hearts are hardened by sin,
how could we sing a song of the Lord? 
When we are in the darkness because we prefer
the darkness, how could we sing a song of the Lord?
When we are separated from the Lord
and indulging in things of the world,
how could 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 our 2nd reading (Ephesians) tells us,
“Even when we [are] dead in our transgressions,
[God] brings us to life with Christ.”
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.
That is how we free ourselves from our own spiritual exile.

And that is how we too can say as the psalmist says,
”May my tongue stick to my palate
 if I do not remember you,
if I do not exalt Jerusalem beyond all my delights.”


Discussion Questions for Reflection

1.  This Sunday's 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 Israelites
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, March 6, 2012

Psalm for Sunday, March 11, 2012


Psalm 19:  8, 9, 10, 11

This Psalm celebrates the law of the Lord,
first given to the Israelites that day on Mt. Sinai in the desert.  “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul; his statutes are true, all of them just.”

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.

This Psalm tells us about the joy that is stirred up 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.