I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
By your favour, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face; I was dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
Reflection – Monday Psalter time, and with this one we are precisely one-fifth of our way through the psalms. This will be my last blog post for a few days, as we are heading off on retreat later this morning here in MH Vancouver.
Psalm 30 is one of those psalms that tends to get quoted a bit, for good reason. It is, simply, lovely. ‘At night there are tears, but joy comes with the dawn… you hid your face; I was dismayed… will the dust praise you?.. For me you have turned my mourning into dancing…’ And so on – the whole psalm is exquisite Hebrew poetry, one of the finest examples of the genre.
It is a quintessential psalm of the resurrection, indeed being one of the psalms used at the Easter Vigil. And so as we move through this deepest heart of Lent, it is good to rest in this psalm and its gentle, lyrical cadences.
Lent, if it has any value at all for us, has the value of bringing us more deeply into the reality that we are, fundamentally, saved. That be it on account of our own personal sins or on account of the terrible brokenness of the world, be it on account of terrible wrong choices we have made or a whole host of external factors (and, let’s face it, for almost everyone it is both these things), we live our lives in a state of mortal peril, of dreadful need. The grave looms, dust is our destiny, mourning breaks upon us, and breaks us, too.
And the Lord ‘draws us up’ – a nice literal translation of one of the Hebrew verbs for being saved or rescued. He snatches us up from this situation of great danger and distress.
And this is what God’s mercy is all about. This terrible parody of mercy that many people seem to have in their minds these days—God as the indulgent grandpapa who doesn’t really care what we do and waves our sins aside as if they are of no account—this is not what the Bible, the Church nor (if I may say so) Pope Francis means by emphasizing the mercy of God so strongly.
The mercy of God means that we live in this terrible state of mortal peril, and God perpetually, always, faithfully comes to our rescue. There is mourning, and death, and dread sorrow in all of our lives, and our own personal sins are at the heart of all of that for us… and God saves us.
God always saves us. This is His Heart for humanity, His flaming, passionate, tender, strong desire for every human being. To save us, and to save us by forgiving us our sins, primarily. To save us by bringing us by grace to repentance, to contrition for our wrong doing, and to faith in Jesus Christ who is the saviour of the world. 'The mountain stands strong', and that mountain is the hill of the Cross and the stream of blood and water that flows from God's heart from that mountain.
Psalm 30 shows us the merciful heart of God, and it is a beautiful sight. So let us, in this 4th week of Lent, rejoice in God’s mercy, dance a little, even, if we please, and in that rejoicing be very quick to turn to Him in our sins, very humble to acknowledge our need for His mercy, and very quick to believe that mercy is given when mercy is asked for, that God has rescued, is rescuing, and will rescue us at every turn of our lives.