Monday, July 20, 2015

Doing The Best We Can Under Current Conditions

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
deliver me!

 For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?

 Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!

 Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
 Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 43

Reflection – I am back from another week of family ministry, this time at the Nazareth family apostolate in Quebec, slightly sunburned and with that pleasantly exhausted feeling that comes from having spent a week doing something good for people.

This lovely psalm follows upon the previous one and repeats some of the same images: ‘why do I go mourning… why are you cast down my soul… hope in God, I shall praise him again…’ It captures to some degree an important aspect of our experience of life in this world. There is a certain amount of uncertainty, a certain darkness of human experience, a certain cast-down-ness that is part of the human condition.

We simply don’t see God and simply don’t ‘know’ Him in this life, not really. Not as we hope to know Him in the next, anyhow. And meanwhile there are ‘ungodly people’ all about—who may be anyone who by word, deed, or omission makes the world in which we live darker, makes it harder for us to hold onto faith, hope, love.

And at the same time, there is this God who while shrouded in mystery is our hope and our salvation. It is so important to realize, and the psalms help us to realize it, that our faith in God is not some airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky escape from reality, but is in fact the light of hope that allows us to embrace reality in all its roughness and sorrows. We do not flee from the difficult and painful parts of life into a fantasy world of ‘me-and-Jesus’. Rather, Jesus and His Father empower us by the gift of the Holy Spirit to confront everything in the world, and everything in our hearts (which is even harder) that opposes light and love and bring the light and truth of God to bear on it.

Psalm 43 is a battle psalm, a psalm that is taken right from the daily experience of a person of faith living in a world without faith. And it does acknowledge that in the midst of the battle we need help from on high. ‘Send forth your light and your truth’. It is the truth of God, given to us above all in the words of the Gospel, that is our light on the path, that is the sure guide showing us how to get to that altar of God which is our joy in this world and the next.

That is significant, too. Our joy, salvation, deliverance, is found in coming to the altar of God. This is something I am exploring at length and (hopefully) in depth in my Thursday commentary on the Mass. We are made for the worship of God, and to enter that act of worship in Christ is the deepest fulfillment of our humanity, and indeed the very entry of the human person into the life of the Trinity.

Meanwhile, we carry on and do the best we can under battle conditions. Turmoil without and turmoil within, and yet always looking for that bit of light, that bit of truth that will see us through whatever the current struggle is to the next place of calm and freedom where we can take up the lyre and strum another psalm or two to the God who saves us. And that is our task this day, to look for the light, weather the storm, and praise the Lord for all things.

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