The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever and ever.
Reflection – The Monday Psalter comes not a moment too soon this week of rabbits and punchiness, reminding us all in Psalm 23 of what is the true focus of our life, what really is that important, and the broad and deep framework into which everything else fits—the Shepherding of God which all human shepherds from the Pope to the rawest newly ordained priest are merely imperfect servants of.
I wrote a series of blog posts on this psalm a couple of years ago, and said quite a few lovely things about it then. What strikes me about it this time around is that this psalm is a wonderful medicine against fear, anxiety, discouragement—all the emotions that swirl up in us in difficult times and make us want to flee from life or give up the struggle.
Psalm 23 perpetually comes to us with a ringing, adamant, and yet very gentle and tender, poetic and lyrical expression of faith. God is taking care of us; He is giving us what we need; He is leading us through the dark times; there is nothing to fear, with Him with us; a table awaits us; we will dwell in His house forever.
Over and over again in our life, no matter what the troubles of the day are, or the troubles in our world, or the troubles in the lives of people we care about, this basic statement of faith is our sure antidote against fear and despair. In a sense, this is our first Creed, before we flesh it out with the historical details of how God is with us, how he came to us, how He is taking care of us, feeding us, leading us—the whole proclamation of Christ that is found in the various Christian Creeds—in a sense, before all of that, we have this fundamental statement of faith.
He is with us. God is good, and He is on the job for us. Trust Him. Follow Him. Keep your eyes and hearts lifted up to Him. And everything else follows from this. There is a sort of limpid simplicity to this psalm—it is short enough that a child can memorize it, the basic concepts are simple enough that anyone can grasp them, and yet the heights and depths of it take us just about as far as we are willing to go. It is psalm a mystic can pray, and never feel that he or she has gotten to the bottom of it, and yet it is given for all of us to pray, and so set our feet on that right and sure path.
So perhaps that is enough for today—I’ve been blogging a lot this week, and rather heavily. But it is awfully important for us, especially when we are struggling with this or that dimension of life or the Church or the world or whatever it is, to return to this fundamental proclamation of faith—the Lord is my shepherd; I shall want for nothing. Amen.