Monday, March 23, 2015

Let Your Heart Take Courage

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!..
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God…

Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side! —
as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!
O Lord, let me not be put to shame, for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame; let them go silently to Sheol…

Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.
Psalm 31

Reflection – The Monday Psalter has delivered up for us Psalm 31, just in time for Passiontide.  It is a happy coincidence that we have this psalm, which is the source of one of the Lord’s seven last words on the Cross, to meditate on as we begin this last cycle of Lent, the two weeks when the Church’s focus shifts from our own lowly state and need for mercy to the beautiful joyous solemn reality that mercy has indeed been given us in the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.

‘Into your hands I commit my spirit’ – along with ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’, these two words of the Lord should be understood as implying the whole psalm, prayed by Him as he hung upon the Cross. A man crucified can only speak with great difficulty; that the Lord spoke this one sentence of Psalm 31 means that the whole of it was resonating in his mind and heart as he died for us.

And this is of great significance. Psalm 31 is a psalm of total entrustment and peaceful abandonment to God in the face of great suffering and affliction. The psalmist is undergoing what so many of the psalmists seem to have undergone—persecution, calumny, humiliation, and who knows what else—but in the midst of it, his prayer is serene, childlike, faithful.

On the lips of Jesus this prayer becomes a deep revelation of the Trinity—the Son resting in the bosom of the Father from all eternity, the communion of love which is the very transcendent structure of Being, the wholly divine revelation that God Himself is communion, is mutual gift and reception and gift, that the very absolute center of reality is not defined by categories of power or violence or cold mechanistic determinism, but by the warmth of love and gift.

And this wholly divine, absolutely transcendent reality is translated into the human sphere in the Incarnation, and is shown on the Cross to be utterly triumphant over the worst excesses of suffering and evil, the worst wounds of non-love that man can deal out to man. And because Jesus on the Cross commits his spirit not only to His Father in heaven but to us (cf John 19:30), we can share in that absolute victory of childlike trust and expectant hope over suffering and evil in our lives.

It is Passiontide, time to contemplate these realities which are so simple and yet carry us right into the heart of the Triune Mystery of God, and make that mystery the mystery of our own lives. Christ died for us, and then rose from the dead. And so in our own ‘dying’, be it in body or in spirit, we can rest in confidence that He is in us, alive and active, and that in Him all things are made new, and we are brought through sorrow and death into life without end.

‘Love the Lord, you his saints, be strong and let your hearts take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.’ Into your hands, O Lord, we commit our spirits.

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