It is the LORD who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the LORD, who sets prisoners free,
the LORD who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the LORD, who protects the stranger,
and upholds the widow and orphan.
It is the LORD who loves the just
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The LORD will reign for ever,
Zion’s God from age to age. (Psalm 146:6b–10a)
Again and again I need to be reminded that in a special way, God is with the childlike, the poor, “the babes” as Gustavo Gutierrez translates from the Greek.
When first sitting with and praying with these Scriptures, I realized that I wanted a magical God to swoop in and change the situations described in Psalm 146. How is our God just to those who remain oppressed? How does God give bread to those who remain hungry? How does God protect the stranger? Uphold the widow and orphan? I wanted a God who magically changes life circumstances, a God who would bring back the widow’s husband so that she would no longer be alone.
We know from Scripture that God is powerful enough to raise the dead and change a person’s life circumstances. Our Scriptures and Tradition also identify the ignorant, the poor, the babes as privileged to God. Matthew 11:25 reads, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” This is influential for ministers to the Church. Part of our formation as Christians, as learned people with some level of authority in the Church, must involve relationship with the childlike.
St. Teresa of Ávila is said to have written: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world . . . ” Let’s allow the tension that we feel upon praying with Psalm 146 motivate our commitment to the works of mercy. The presence and love of another in times of hunger, isolation, and loneliness is transformative. As Christians, our role is not to raise the orphan’s parents from the dead. Rather, we accompany the orphan and any pilgrim we encounter from Sheol, or the pit, back into the land of the living.
The antiphon to Psalm 108, which we prayed along with Psalm 146 this morning, is: “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready.” The antiphon is an expression of true Christian freedom. Our goal is to pray this antiphon without fear, hesitation, or stipulation. We hope to pray these words not just for ourselves, but to pray them with anticipation for the childlike, the babes, those who we have some ability to accompany. They will help direct us to the Father.
Editors’ Note: This text was delivered as a homily at Morning Prayer during the Center for Liturgy Symposium, Liturgy and the New Evangelization. We are grateful for the author’s permission to publish it here.
Featured Photo: Justin Connaher; CC-BY-2.0.