[Random musings arising from the psalms for Sunday in Week 4 of the Liturgy of the Hours.]
Today is October 13, 2019. We had the first frost of this fall the night before last. The trees I can see from my window have not yet gotten the message--still all green.
Sunday of Week 28 in Ordinary Time. The church year ends with Week 34. Then a new church year begins. Another Advent. I am 84 years old. How many more Advents will I see? What I have seen is more than enough. Like Simeon, now I can die in peace (Luke 2:29).
The "Invitatory Psalm"
Psalm 95 is the traditional psalm to begin every single day throughout the year.
"Come, let us make glorious noise for the Lord."
The Lord. Our Lord. The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. The God who made us into a people. "Lord" is the personal name, so sacred that Jewish practice doesn't vocalize it. Four consonants on the page. No image of this God.
"The Lord is a great God, king among all the gods."
The Lord has competitors. A few weeks ago I decided to name the two competitors who have controlled my day for years: Excellence controls my work day. It is truly a competitor god for me. In its name I have to be the best at every moment of my work day. I am too focused on being excellent to be aware of the people who flit in and out of my work day. They are shadows, ghosts. I need every available moment to be Excellent.
My other competitor god is Leisure. When I am not at work I want to be absolutely free to do anything I want. There are many intrusions on my free time. Most of them I accept voluntarily. But Leisure is always beckoning me from the shadows. I will sacrifice time as long as the sacrifice is scheduled. But an unscheduled intrusion? Resentment. Anger. Leisure rules.
"Don't harden your hearts the way the people did in the desert. Your fathers just had to test my faithfulness."
"Moses, why did you lead us out into this desert where we are dying of thirst?"
In so many of the psalms the majority of the people are doing the wrong thing. The minute Moses was out of the picture they made the golden calf.
Are we all that different? How many people baptized as Christians are living as Christians? Many of them are official "fallen-aways," but how many of the ones staying have their hearts in it?
When Pope Benedict XVI said that he foresaw a smaller, more committed Church, I heard him calling for a community of the Pure, like the Puritans or the Pharisees. But maybe he was just acknowledging the fact that at any given moment, the majority of so-called Christians are not really Christians. So what else is new? The majority of the children of Abraham at any given moment were questioning the Lord's relevance in their lives. And not just questioning. Ignoring the presence.
"I was with that crowd for 40 years and their hearts were always somewhere else--anywhere else but me." So then the Lord shares frustration: "By God, they will never see the kind of world I wanted for them."
This first psalm of morning prayer on the Sunday of Week 4 is a prolonged song of praise of the Lord.
"Praise the Lord because the Lord is good. The Lord's steadfast love lasts forever."
Steadfast love. The word is often translated as "mercy." This noun is paired over and over and over in the psalms with a second noun: "faithfulness." The Greek word can also mean "truth," but here the truth is that the Lord never gives up on the people.
Steadfast love and faithfulness. What a description of God, our God, the Lord. Much better than all the other gods: wealth, control, esteem, health.
But maybe our picture of the Lord is just a creation of our own wishful thinking. Maybe we aren't strong enough to face the brutal truth: we are chance products of a blind evolution that will chew us all up and spit us out just like all the other species that come and go on one tiny planet in a universe where they may be billions of planets just like ours.
But then there's love. Human love. Woman, man, child, parent. I have experienced love. Is it wishful thinking when I say that this particular person loves me? I could be deceived. I could even go the way of those 18th-century philosophers who questioned whether there was anything real beyond the limits of their head. I know that everything I perceive with any of my five senses is shaped by what goes on in my neural system.
But, No! I cry. I am not deceived. This person loves me. I love this person.
The Lord loves me. I love the Lord. Is there any difference?
How much more impoverished is a world where there is no love.
Now that is not an absolute proof for "the existence of God." Maybe we can never come up with an absolute proof. But in the meantime we have to live. We want to live. We want to live more abundantly,
So most of our fellow travelers never think about the Lord. What else is new?