Monday, July 20, 2015

Psalm 22: Hope

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I think at one time or another, in one way or another, we’ve all spoken aloud those words which Jesus spoke from the cross.  They are words of despair; they are words spoken out of a strong emotion.  They are words that a human body, in pain, in suffering, or in deep sorrow cannot contain.  They just come out, without thinking.

The Scriptures talk about “wailing women” at the house of a dead person, giving voice to a despair often silently felt by the living, loved ones.  I never quite understood what that meant: “wailing.”  Then came the day when I heard the news of my sister’s pending death, and I wailed.  And I cried out words from my heart to God; I had no thoughts; the words just were there.  Like those words spoken aloud from the cross.

I look about me, and it seems I see many people wailing these days.

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Last Saturday, I attended a Day of Recollection with the members of my local Secular Franciscan Order.  One of the talks given that day was focused on Psalm 22.  It began with the priest-speaker reading the entire psalm aloud, and then asking us what we had heard.  It was different hearing it read, versus reading it.  There were many differing insights voiced from the people in the room.  And although I have read and prayed that psalm many times, I too heard different things explained in my heart that day.

The first line of the psalm is one said in strong emotion, a physical reaction as I described above.  Read softly by the priest, it still sounded almost like a shout.  But then I heard calmer, more reflective words being read:

I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

Yet … in you our fathers trusted;
… and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not disappointed.

What I heard was the psalmist saying:  “I am in great pain, Lord; you don’t seem to be helping.  But … I remember how when my forefathers were in pain, and you helped them.  They trusted in you.” 

“Hmmmmm,” the psalmist seems to be musing aloud, “… and they were not disappointed.”

Yes, dogs are round about me;
a company of evildoers encircle me;
they have pierced my hands and feet.

In going back to and describing his own agonies again, the psalmist unwittingly foretells those of Christ, but recalling again how God saved his forefathers, he then prays:

I will tell of your name to my brethren;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you …
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied,
those who seek him shall praise the Lord!

Those who seek him will find him, the psalmist reminds himself. 

Psalm 22 is not a psalm of despair, as it begins, but it is a psalm reminding us that when we are in despair: to have hope in the Lord.  He has helped our ancestors in their trials, why would we think he will not help us?  Psalm 22 begins in despair, but ends with hope. 

Faith involves reason; God is not fickle; his words and actions make sense --- even if we cannot understand them at the moment.  Charity involves the will:  I will to love my neighbor, even if he seems undeserving of my love, by human standards.  But Hope involves neither the reasoning of the mind nor the will of the heart.  Hope is a trust in God’s promises:  delivered in the past, being delivered even in our present circumstances, and to be delivered in all eternity.

Jesus died to give us that Hope.  Jesus said the opening words of Psalm 22 from the cross as a great, visible reminder of the point of that psalm:  DO NOT BE ANXIOUS. 

I know things seem terrible now, Jesus seems to say from the cross, but hope in God.  Even from this horror you see before you, He will bring forth amazing, wonderful things.

And He did.

Trust in Him. 
Hope in Him.

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