Commentary on Psalm 122(123)
"An Exchange of Glances"
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at today's general audience, which he dedicated to a reflection on Psalm 122(123). The audience was in St. Peter's Square.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Unfortunately, you have suffered under the rain. Let's hope the weather will improve.
1. In a very incisive way, Jesus affirms in the Gospel that the eyes are an expressive symbol of the innermost self, a mirror of the soul (see Matthew 6:22-23). Well, Psalm 122(123), which was just proclaimed, is summarized in an exchange of glances: The faithful one lifts his eyes to the Lord and waits for a divine reaction, to perceive a gesture of love, a look of benevolence.
Not rarely, there is talk in the Psalter of the gaze of the Most High who "looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God" (Psalm 13:2). The Psalmist, as we heard, makes use of an image, that of the slave and maid who look to their master for a liberating decision.
Although the scene is linked to the ancient world and its social structures, the idea is clear and significant: This image taken from the world of the ancient East, is used to exalt the adherence of the poor, the hope of the oppressed, and the availability of the just to the Lord.
2. The Psalmist is waiting for the divine hands to move, as they will act according to justice, destroying evil. For this reason, often in the Psalter the one praying lifts his eyes full of hope toward the Lord: "My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net" (Psalm 24:15), while "my eyes grow dim with waiting for my God" (Psalm 68:4).
Psalm 122(123) is a plea in which the voice of a faithful one is united with that of the whole community: In fact, the Psalm goes from the first person singular -- "I lift up my eyes" -- to the plural -- "our eyes" and "mercy upon us" (see verses 1-3). The hope is expressed that the Lord's hands will open to shower gifts of justice and freedom. The just man waits for God's gaze to reveal itself in all its tenderness and goodness, as one reads in the ancient priestly blessing of the Book of Numbers: "The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Numbers 6:25-26).
3. The importance of God's loving glance is revealed in the second part of the Psalm, characterized by the invocation: "Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us" (Psalm 122:3). It is in continuity with the end of the first part, where confident expectation is confirmed, "our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he have mercy upon us" (verse 2).
The faithful are in need of God's intervention because they are in a painful situation of contempt and derision by proud people. The image the Psalmist now uses is that of satiety: "We have had more than enough of contempt. Too long our soul has been sated with the scorn of those who are at ease, the contempt of the proud" (verses 3-4).
To the traditional biblical satiety of food and years, regarded as a sign of divine blessing, is now opposed an intolerable satiety composed of an excessive load of humiliations. And we know that today many nations, many individuals are full of worries; they are too satiated with the worries of the satisfied, the contempt of the arrogant. Let us pray for them and let us help these humiliated brothers of ours.
For this reason, the just have entrusted their cause to the Lord, and he is not indifferent to those imploring eyes, he does not ignore their invocation or ours, nor does he disappoint their hope.
4. At the end, we give way to the voice of St. Ambrose, the great archbishop of Milan, who, with the spirit of the Psalmist, articulates poetically the work of God, which is achieved in Jesus Savior: "Christ is everything for us. If you wish to cure a wound, he is doctor; if you burn with fever, he is fountain; if you are oppressed by iniquity, he is justice; if you are in need of help, he is strength; if you fear death, he is life; if you desire heaven, he is the way; if you flee from darkness, he is light; if you seek food, he is nourishment" ("La Verginitŕ" [Virginity], 99: SAEMO, XIV/2, Milan-Rome, 1989, p. 81).
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father read the following summary in English:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our meditation today centers on Psalm 122, which speaks of the believer's desire to raise his eyes to the Lord in the hope of a loving response. The image of a slave looking for freedom indicates an expectation that God will pour forth his gifts of justice and freedom. Indeed, the whole community confidently awaits the tender and compassionate glance of the Lord.
The second part of the Psalm is a plea for God's mercy: "Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy." The faithful may suffer scorn and disdain at the hands of the rich and arrogant who have no fear of the Lord, violate the rights of the weak and trample on the poor. But the just entrust their plight to the Lord who does not remain indifferent to their imploring eyes, who does not ignore their plea, who does not disappoint their hope.
To conclude, let us recall the teaching of the great Saint Ambrose who states, Christ is everything for us: justice, strength, life and light!
[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including groups from England, Nigeria, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada and the United States of America. I thank you for the affection with which you have greeted me. May you have a happy stay in Rome! Upon all of you, I invoke the peace and joy of Jesus Christ our Lord!
http://www.catholic.org , VA
Pope Benedict XVI - Bishop of Rome, 661 869-1000
Psalm, Pope, Benedict, Jesus, Gospel
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