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Pope Benedict Commentary on Psalm 144(145):14-21

"The Lord Is Near to All Who Call Upon Him"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience. The Pope commented on the second part of Psalm 144(145).

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1. Following the Liturgy, which divides it in two parts, we again reflect on Psalm 144(145), an admirable hymn in honor of the Lord, an affectionate king attentive to his creatures. We now want to meditate on the second part, on verses 14 to 21, which take up again the essential topic of the hymn's first movement.

In it are exalted divine mercy, tenderness, fidelity and goodness that extend to the whole of humanity, involving every creature. Now the psalmist concentrates his attention on the love the Lord reserves in a particular way for the poor and the weak. Therefore, divine royalty is not indifferent or haughty, as can sometimes happen in the exercise of human power. God expresses his royalty stooping down to his most fragile and defenseless creatures.

2. In fact, above all, he is a Father who "upholds all who are falling" and straightens those who have fallen in the dust of humiliation (cf. verse 14). Living beings, therefore, are oriented to the Lord as if they were hungry beggars and he offers them, as attentive Father, the food they need to live (cf. verse 15).

Then, from the lips of the psalmist issues the profession of faith in the two divine qualities par excellence: justice and holiness. "You, Lord, you just in all your ways, faithful in all your works" (verse 17). In Hebrew, we come across two typical adjectives to illustrate the Covenant that exists between God and his People: "saddiq" and "hasid." They express justice, which wants to save and liberate from evil, and fidelity which is a sign of the loving greatness of the Lord.

3. The psalmist places himself on the side of the benefited that he describes with different expressions; they are terms that constitute, in practice, a representation of the authentic believer. The latter "invokes" the Lord in confident prayer, seeks him in life "in truth" (cf. verse 18), fears his God, respecting his will and obeying his Word (cf. verse 19), but above all, "loves" him, confident that he will be received under the mantle of his protection and intimacy (cf. verse 20).

The psalmist's last word, then, is the same as that with which he began the hymn: It is an invitation to praise and bless the Lord and his "name," namely, the living and holy person that acts and saves in the world and history. Beyond that, it is a call to all creatures, who have received the gift of life, to associate themselves to the prayer of praise: "All flesh will bless your holy name forever." It is a kind of everlasting hymn that must be raised from earth to heaven; it is the communal celebration of the universal love of God, source of peace, joy and salvation.

4. Concluding our reflection, let us meditate again on that gentle verse that says: "You, Lord, are near to all who call upon you, to all who call upon you in truth" (verse 18). It was a phrase that was particularly liked by Barsanufius of Gaza, an ascetic who died about the middle of the sixth century, who was consulted by monks, ecclesiastics and lay people because of the wisdom of his discernment.

For example, to a disciple who expressed the desire to discover "the causes of the different temptations that had assailed him," Barsanufius replied: "Brother John, do not be afraid of the temptations that arise against you to put you to the test, do not be determined in trying to understand what it is about; rather, cry out the name of Jesus: 'Jesus, help me.' And he will hear you because "the Lord is near to all who call upon him.' Do not be discouraged, run with ardor and you will reach your end in Christ, Jesus, our Lord" (Barsanufius and John of Gaza, "Epistolario," 39: "Collana di Testi Patristici," XCIII, Rome, 1991, p. 109).

And these words of the ancient Father are also valid for us. In our difficulties, problems, temptations, we must not simply engage in a theoretical reflection -- from whence do they come? -- but must react positively, invoking the Lord, maintaining a living contact with the Lord. Beyond that, we must cry out the name of Jesus: "Jesus, help me!" And we may be sure that he listens to us, as he is near to those who seek him. Let us not be discouraged; rather, let us run with ardor -- as this Father says -- and we too will reach life, Jesus, the Lord.

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's reflection we return to Psalm 144, a beautiful hymn in honor of the Lord, loving king, who is pious, tender, faithful and extends his goodness to all creatures. The Psalmist emphasizes that the Lord's love is never detached and lofty but is reserved in a special way for the weak and the poor. God is a Father who expresses his kingly nature by stooping down to protect those who are most fragile and defenseless.

"The Lord is just in all his ways and loving in all his deeds." The true believer should invoke the Lord in devoted prayer, seek him with a sincere heart, fear him, and above all love him.

In conclusion, let us contemplate the advice of Barsanufius of Gaza who encourages us to call upon Jesus for help during moments of temptation. Indeed, "the Lord is close to all who call him, who call on him from their hearts."

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at this audience, especially those from Ireland and the United States of America. Upon all of you I invoke the Lord's blessings of health and joy.


The Vatican , VA
Pope Benedict XVI - Bishop of Rome, 661 869-1000



Psalm, Pope, Benedict, Commentary

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