The psalm for tomorrow’s Liturgy is Psalm 18, written by David when God saved him from the hand of Saul. It begins “I love thee, O Lord, my strength.” Here is Amy Carmichael’s commentary on this and the next verse.
Let us pray for one another that we may not go into caves. [cf. Ps 142] Any one of us might do it at any moment, but for the grace of God. The heading of this Psalm says that it is the Song which David spoke to the Lord . . . when he was delivered from his enemies—those enemies who had driven him into the cave.
There are many caves besides the cave of selfishness and self-love . . .; but whatever our cave is, the moment we get out, the devil is sure to tell us we shall soon be back again, and so the second verse in the LXX is delightful: ‘The Lord is my firm support’.
Is that not just what we want? We know our weakness, we have proved it many a time; but we need not fall, for ‘the Lord is our firm support’. I have noticed that some of the happiest people are not by nature the strongest, but they are those who love the Lord their Strength with a confident, joyful love; and they are not constantly thinking of themselves and their weakness, nor do they ever dream of not enjoying what He gives them to do, for ‘the joy of the Lord is [their] strength’, and their Lord is their firm support.”
Fr. Barron aptly describes God’s irrational love for us:
Jesus’ original audience must have been puzzled indeed when they heard one of the Lord’s better-known parables for the first time. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one . . . ” Well, they probably thought, precisely no man! Sheep were a precious commodity int he ancient world, and no shepherd worth his salt would willingly risk ninety-nine in order to find one. The Lord’s follow-up story would most likely have left them equally confused. “What woman having ten coins and losing one would not . . . sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls . . . he friends and neighbors and says . . . ‘Rejoice with me.'” The coin in quetion was of very little value, less than a penny. For that minuscule amount of money, she would turn her house upside down and then, upon discovering it, would call for a party? Her friends would think her mad.
And thus we come to the point. Jesus speaks of the God who loves us lavishly, extravagantly, exuberantly, even, dare I say it, irrationally. Think of the father of the Prodigal Son, who violates every canon of justice and right order when he welcomes back (with a party!) the child who had spurned him. One way to sum up the good news of the Gospel is to say, quite simply, that the Father of Jesus Christ is crazy about us.
“Where are you?” (God to Adam in Genesis)
“God never tires of looking for us.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
It is so easy to grumble, isn’t it? Here’s a little encouragement from Amy Carmichael to choose another way of looking at your life:
Num 11.5: We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.
Ps 40.10 (BCP): I should fulfill Thy will, O my God: I am content to do it.
To think of nice things one can’t have is to become discontented and grumpy. Is there something you want and can’t have today? Are you tempted to grouse about it? repeat that little string of six words to yourself quite slowly and solemnly: “Fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic.” If you haven’t time for all six just say, “Cucumbers,” and see what will happen. First you will laugh. Then in a flash you will remember those foolish and ungrateful people whose story you know so well. You will remember, too, how patiently God bore with them; and you will be ashamed that even for one moment you joined forces with them.
We are all sure to be tempted by thoughts of fish, cucumbers, melons, onions, leeks, and garlic–things we would like but cannot have at present. But there is another set of six words which is as happy as the first set of six is unhappy. They were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ about His Father’s will: I am content to do it.
Which set of six will you take for your own? You can’t have both; they won’t mix. So choose.
Simon’s heart was racing from effort and emotion, and he gasped for breath as he made his way through the fish to where Jesus was sitting in the stern. Simon approached this man whose presence had become almost unbearable: they were too different, too distant, too “other.” And yet it seemed to him that this presence was such an absolute gift to him that only Jesus could reestablish the correct distance between them.
Simon was overtaken by a sense of unworthiness: everything in his life that was petty, false, angry, silly, greedy proud, vile had now become a heavy, nauseating heap.
He was surprised himself by what he cried out in front of everyone: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5.8). And he knew that no truer words had ever come from his lips.
Even so, just as his words were disappearing into the noise of the water, the wind, the boat, Simon understood that these words, too, were false. They were no longer true before that face, before the expression of Jesus, who continued to stare at him in silence. The words were true inside of Peter himself, in his heart, in his humanity, but they were no longer true before Jesus. He had not yet finished saying, “Depart from me, Lord,” when his heart began crying in desolation, “No! Stay with me, Lord! Take me with you!”
~Dom Mauro Giuseppe Lepori, O. Cist.
Amy Carmichael starts this piece by asking: “Do you ever find prayer difficult because of tiredness or dryness?” If your answer is yes, read on.
Ps 31.5 Into Your hands I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.
Do you ever find prayer difficult because of tiredness or dryness? When that is so, it is an immense help to let the Psalms and hymns we know by heart say themselves or sing themselves inside us. This is possible anywhere and at any time.
We can’t be mistaken in using this easy, open way of prayer, for our Lord Jesus used it. His very last prayer, when He was far too tired to pray as He usually did, was Psalm 31.5. Every Jewish mother used to teach her child to say those words as a good-night prayer.
Hymns, little prayer-songs of our own, even the simplest of them, can sing us into His love. Or more truly, into the consciousness of His love, for we are never for one moment out of it.