Let’s think about the psalms a little bit today. The book of the psalms, called the psalter, is one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament and has been the basic prayerbook of the Jewish people since before the time of Jesus. In fact, every devout Jew knew the entire psalter—all 150 psalms—by heart, and prayed them regularly. They came to the mind, heart, and lips of the religious Jews as the Our Father and the Hail Mary do to us. Then, in the earliest days of the Church, the psalms were built into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and are still very much with us. We recite or sing one of the psalms, or a part of one, after the first reading at every Mass we celebrate. And those of us who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office, each day, find that the psalms are the basis of this official prayer system of the Church.
The famous Trappist author, Thomas Merton, devoted a book to the psalms; he called it “Bread in the Wilderness,” and explained how the psalms have been given to all God’s people, but especially to those like monks and nuns who pray the Divine Office each day on their own behalf and that of the entire Church and indeed, the entire human race. It is beautiful to realize that these psalms which we say in our daily prayer or at least on Sundays at Mass are the very prayers which Our Lord and His Blessed Mother prayed all their lives. As Jesus was dying in unspeakable agony on the cross, he cried out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Those who do not understand what was happening believe that Jesus was expressing his despondency and his feeling that his heavenly Father had forsaken him. Not at all! That utterance is the first line of psalm 22. If you will read the whole thing, which was of course implied by Jesus= saying the first line in a loud voice, you will find an almost photographic description of his terrible sufferings on the cross, which then ends in a great cry of triumph and accomplishment and victory. Yes, Our Divine Lord was undergoing terrible physical sufferings, and probably a great deal of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual pain, too, but he certainly did not believe that his Father had, or ever would, abandon or forsake him. When you attend Mass, my dear friends, pay close attention to the responsorial psalm after the first reading, and to the entrance and communion antiphons, which are usually taken from the psalms, and remember that you are praying to God in the very same words and ideas which Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother used in their prayer life. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.
When will the kingdom of God come? When will the world end? When will Christ make his second coming? Will more people be saved than lost? All these questions were put to Our Lord, and have been asked by every generation since his life on earth. There is a natural curiosity about the future. But Our Lord does not want us to know the future, except those things that will help us in our own spiritual development. In the gospel of today’s Mass, they ask Jesus when will the kingdom of God come. He understands that they are thinking in terms of a great army marching into the Holy Land, expelling the Roman occupiers, and setting up a government something like that of the great Jewish kings, David and Solomon, a thousand years previously. And so he answers, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, for the kingdom of God is among you.” That word “among” can also be translated, “within.” It is not a matter of a particular nation, with definite boundaries, a capital, a ruler of some kind, laws, postage, coinage of its own. It is a matter of faith in God, hope in the coming of Christ, love for God and neighbor. These things can take possession of the heart of anyone, anywhere. That is what the kingdom of God is.
Some years ago, I was in a parish in which there were two houses just across the street from the church. They were side by side. In one house, there was a loving family, peace, harmony, devoutness, love. Right next door, there was alcoholism, constant fighting, one son on drugs, one daughter so neurotic that she was almost insane, and utter misery for all who lived there. I used to look at those two houses and reflect that in one house the kingdom of God flourished; in the other, there was hell on earth. When Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is among, and within, us, he is primarily referring to himself. Jesus is God; he brings the kingdom of God by giving himself to the world, to us individually. He takes up his residence, his abode, in our hearts and minds, our homes, our activities. Saint Catherine of Siena tells us that we should live in God and permit God to live in us, as the sponge is in the sea and the sea in the sponge. We want God, and specifically Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ, to permeate every fiber of our being. We want to be totally, utterly Christian. And I use that word in its proper sense, which is “Christ-like.” Some so-called Christians are not Christ-like at all. We must examine ourselves frequently by asking: Am I truly Christ-like? Am I living the life that Jesus wants me to live? Am I an authentic citizen of the kingdom of God? Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.