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A psalm of two halves

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A psalm of two halves

The psalm we hear at Mass this Sunday comprises the final seven verses of psalm 21 (Hebrew 22).  It is a beautiful little song of praise, of dedication and of hope.

 My vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and shall have their fill.
They shall praise the Lord, those who seek him.
May their hearts live for ever and ever!
 
All the earth shall remember and return to the Lord,
All families of the nations worship before him.
They shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth;
Before him shall bow all who go down to the dust.
 
And my soul shall live for him, my children serve him.
They shall tell of the Lord to generations yet to come,
Declare his faithfulness to peoples yet unborn:
‘These things the Lord has done.’

However, without knowing what goes before these final seven verses, we really miss out on what the psalm has to teach us, for this is the psalm that begins, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  We last heard it (or at least most of it) on Passion Sunday, when it sat between Isaiah 50 and the Philippians’ hymn and then was quoted (in St Mark’s passion) by Jesus as he cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ In such a setting, we can see why those last seven verses are omitted at that point in our liturgical year.

I wonder if it puzzled the Jews, to have ‘all who see me deride me’ sharing a psalm with ‘they shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth’?  Now, in the light of the resurrection, we see with clarity the parallel between Jesus’ three predictions of his passion[1] and this psalm of passion, which also ends with the confidence one expects from an Easter people.  The psalm as a whole illustrates for us the indivisibility of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.

Although we do not hear the first part of the psalm on Sunday, we know that it is there, and so in praying this second part we remember how privileged we are to live in these ‘latter days’, in Anno Domini.  In the light of the resurrection, we dedicate our souls anew to living for him and telling of the Lord to generations yet to come.

 

 


[1] See Mark 8:31, 9:31 & 10:34, each of which ends with a prediction of the resurrection

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