Don't miss the psalm!


At Sunday Mass, we sing a few lines of a psalm. The music creates a mood, but the words usually pass by without leaving a lasting impression. Today, though, you might retrieve it and spend a few minutes with it.

“O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water” (Ps 63:2).

The word that resounds in the Hebrew is “you”: You, you I seek, “for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts.” It is you yourself, God, that I’m looking for.

Literally, the psalmist says he is “in” a dry and barren land. How many situations in life seem that way! The long hallway of motel rooms I have to clean today. The office that I’m not going to get out of in time to get to my son’s basketball game. The house, empty since my husband died.

“Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory” (v. 3).

In the Hebrew, it’s “thus do I gaze.” I’m looking toward you, God, although you seem far away. If only you would reveal your power and reshape my life!

“For your kindness is a greater good than life” (v. 4).

Puzzling. The psalmist is in a wilderness; God seems distant. And yet, there is a knowledge of God in the psalmist’s heart. He knows God, knows his goodness. In fact, knowing God’s goodness is so overwhelming, he can’t express it.

How could God’s love be better than life? If the psalmist stops living, he can’t know and praise God. Perhaps the psalmist is saying that God himself is better than anything he gives? You yourself, God, are my good!

The psalmist promises to praise God, confident that his soul shall “be satisfied” as with “the riches of a banquet.” Then he describes his nights.

“I will remember you upon my couch, and through the night-watches I will meditate on you: You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy” (v. 7-8).

In darkness and quiet, the psalmist recalls what God has done for him. And it is not the particularly helpful acts that give him joy so much as the knowledge that God is his help. He has the joy of not being alone.

And the next line (not in the liturgy) is this:

“My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me” (v. 9).

Ah! As the psalmist has been looking for God, God has not been far away. He has been holding his hand the whole time.