Monday, March 2, 2015

The Lord Heard the Voice of Their Pleas

To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.

Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.
Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbours while evil is in their hearts.

Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds;
give to them according to the work of their hands;
render them their due reward.
Because they do not regard the works of the Lord or the work of his hands,
he will tear them down and build them up no more.

Blessed be the Lord!
For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

The Lord is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
Psalm 28

Reflection – Another Monday, another psalm. This one is a classic example of a typical genre of psalmody—the cry for help in desperate circumstances. There are many such in the psalter, a reminder that the psalms were not written by powerful people in a place of mastery, but by a small beleaguered tribe surrounded by stronger tribes, more often than not at war or threatened by war from them.

We cannot read a psalm like this today without thinking of our brother and sister Christians in the Middle East particularly, living literally with a knife at their throats from the terrorism and barbarous violence of ISIS. We can, and must pray for our fellow Christians who are facing persecution and martyrdom in large numbers.

I have never been fond of the use of the word ‘persecution’ by Christians in North America to describe our current situation. To have someone say something nasty to you about your faith, or to be surrounded by a cultural ethos and messaging that it antithetical to ones faith is unpleasant, for sure, but it is not persecution.

Persecution is having your church burned down by a mob, having to flee your village or your country at the threat of your life, having your throat slit and your head cut off. That is persecution, not simply someone being rude to us about our beliefs.

On a lower level it is also being forced out of one’s job for one’s beliefs—for example, one of the drafters of the new proposed ‘conscience’ policy for the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons suggested that doctors who have moral objections to providing or referring for abortions should simply not practice medicine. So far this policy has not been adopted, but if it is adopted, in essence faithful Catholics and others whose religious or moral beliefs forbids abortion will not be allowed to be doctors in Ontario.

So this psalm has its place in our lives, even though we really must be clear—we pray this psalm in union with and as an intercession for those members of the Body of Christ who are actually facing death for their beliefs. And in that praying there is a great call to faith and hope. The 21 men who were killed, for example, and who have already been declared martyrs of the faith by the Egyptian Coptic Church, have indeed won a great victory, have indeed been delivered from the hands of their enemies.

The Lord heard their cry for mercy and help, and came to their rescue, not to save their mortal lives, true, but to establish them in his kingdom forever. And this perspective is necessary for all of us—what it means to be delivered from evil and to triumph over those who would harm us. Our victory over the world and over evil is our perseverance in faith, hope, and love—not some passing temporal success.

So… let us pray for one another and all those who are facing terrible danger and suffering on account of their faith for any reason, that we may all keep faith with the God who keeps faith with us. Amen.

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