Skip to content

Commentary on Psalm 126(127)

"Without the Lord, All Our Efforts Will Ultimately Fail"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 1, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience, which he dedicated to a reflection on Psalm 126(127).

* * *

1. Psalm 126(127), just proclaimed, presents before our eyes a spectacle in movement: a house under construction, the city with its watchmen, family life, night watches, daily work, the little and great secrets of life. However, over all rises a decisive presence: that of the Lord who watches over the works of man, as the incisive beginning of the psalm suggests: "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build" (verse 1).

A solid society is born, indeed, from the commitment of all its members, but it has need of the blessing and support of that God who, unfortunately, is often excluded and ignored. The Book of Proverbs underlines the primacy of divine action for the well-being of a community and it does so in a radical way, affirming that "the blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it" (Proverbs 10:22).

2. This sapiential psalm, fruit of meditation on the reality of everyday life, is built essentially on a contrast: without the Lord, in vain does one seek to erect a stable house, to build a secure city, to have one's labor fructify (see Psalm 126[127]:1-2). With the Lord, instead, one has prosperity and fruitfulness, a family rich in children and serene, a city well supplied and defended, free of constant worry and insecurity (see verses 3-5).

The text begins with a reference to the Lord, portrayed as the builder of the house and watchman who watches over the city (see Psalm 120[121]:1-8). Man goes out in the morning to be diligent in his work to support his family and to serve the development of society. It is work that consumes his energies, making his brow sweat (see Genesis 3:19) the whole day (see Psalm 126[127]:2).

3. Well, the psalmist does not hesitate to affirm that all this labor is useless if God is not beside the one who labors. And he affirms, on the contrary, that God even rewards his friends' sleep. So the psalmist wishes to exalt the primacy of divine grace, which gives consistency and value to human action, even though characterized by limitations and transience. In serene and faithful abandonment of our freedom to the Lord, our works also become solid, capable of lasting fruit. So our "sleep" becomes a blessed, God-given rest, destined to seal an activity that has meaning and consistency.

4. At this point we move to the other scene outlined by our psalm. The Lord gives the gift of children, seen as a blessing and grace, a sign of life that continues and of the history of salvation moving toward new stages (see verse 3). The psalmist exalts, in particular, "the children born in one's youth": The father who has had children in his youth not only will see them in all their vigor, but they will also be his support in old age. So he will be able to face the future with security, having become like a warrior, armed with those sharp and victorious "arrows" that are his sons.

The purpose of the image, taken from the culture of the time, is to celebrate security, stability, the strength of a numerous family, as is repeated in the subsequent Psalm 127(128), in which the portrait of a happy family is sketched.

The last image portrays a father surrounded by his children, who is greeted with respect at the gate of the city, seat of public life. Procreation is, therefore, a gift bearing life and well-being for society. We are aware of it in our days in the face of nations that are deprived, by the demographic loss, of freshness, vitality and the future incarnated in children. Over all, however, rises the blessed presence of God, source of life and hope.

5. Psalm 126(127) was often used by spiritual authors precisely to exalt this divine presence, decisive to proceed on the path of goodness and of the Kingdom of God. Thus the monk Isaiah (who died in Gaza in 491), recalling in his "Asceticon" (Logos 4,118) the example of the ancient patriarchs and prophets, teaches: "They placed themselves under the protection of God, imploring his assistance, without placing their trust in some work they accomplished. And God's protection was for them a fortified city, because they knew that without God's help they were impotent and their humility made them say with the Psalmist: 'Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain'" ("Recueil Asc├ętique," Abbey of Bellefontaine, 1976, pp. 74-75).

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father read the following summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today I would like to reflect with you on Psalm 126, which reminds us that whatever we do or undertake can only bear fruit if it has God's blessing. Without the Lord, all our efforts will ultimately fail. With the Lord, we will find prosperity and happiness, our labors will bear fruit, and our lives will be secure.

The Psalmist also reminds us that the gift of children is a particular blessing from God, a source of joy and a support, especially in old age. Children are also a blessing for society, giving it a special freshness and future. We can easily think of those societies today that are lacking in energy and hope because of the declining birth-rate. May the Lord's blessing bring them new life, new hope! And may we all recognize that only with God's help can our work succeed, for "if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor."

[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I offer my heartfelt greetings to all the English-speaking visitors present in today's audience, including pilgrims from Malawi, Ireland, Malta, Australia and the United States of America. I extend a special welcome to the altar servers who have come from Malta with their families, to assist in St. Peter's Basilica. May your pilgrimage strengthen your faith and renew your love for the Lord, and may God's blessing be upon you all!

Contact

The Vatican
http://www.catholic.org , VA
Pope Benedict XVI - Bishop of Rome, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

Pope, Benedict, Psalm, Lord, Vatican

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.