Psalm 142



























Rescue me from those who pursue me

for they are stronger than I.

Bring my soul out of this prison

and then I shall praise Your name.

Around me the just will assemble

because of Your goodness to me.

I cry to You, O Lord.

I have said: "You are my refuge,

all I have left in the land of the living.”

Listen then to my cry

for I am in  the depths of distress.

On the way where I shall walk

they have hidden a snare to entrap me.

Look on my right and see:

there is not one who takes my part.

I have no means of escape,

not one who cares for my soul.


With all my voice I cry to the Lord,

with all my voice  I entreat the Lord.

I pour out my trouble before Him;

I tell Him all my distress

while my spirit faints within me.

But You, O Lord,  know my path.


Francis’ Echo


In Franciscan circles, Psalm 142 is held in honor because it was the psalm St. Francis intoned at the hour of his death.  From the time when he composed the Office of the Cross, the Little Poor Man had an intuitive grasp of the implications of this great psalmodic lament, being characterized by such simple, humble and forthright trust in God.  Francis begins his devotional Hour of Sext, the liturgical Hour traditionally associated with the nailing of Christ to the Cross, with the opening lines of Psalm 142.  Thus it is quite significant that the Seraphic Patriarch chose to close his own earthly Pasch with the same text, as if to seal with the very Word of God his utter identification with the suffering Savior.


Psalm 142 offers another precious Scriptural “root” of Franciscan spirituality.  The sacred portion the psalmist claims became the evangelical poverty which St. Francis and St. Clare espoused with such ardor: Let this be your portion which leads you into the land of the living. Rule of 1223, 6


Psalm 142 is a summons to deeper awareness of the nearness of God in times of trial.  It is a reminder that prayer engages the whole person and that the suffering which impels the voice to cry and the spirit to faint is also a gateway to hope.  St. Francis, dying, intoned Psalm 142 as best he could.  God answered him with the grace of a holy death.  In any and every suffering, we too can pray Psalm 142 as best as we can – and experience the nearness of the God who listens and comforts. 


Christ’s Cry


The Fathers of the Church have long seen the persecuted, suffering and abandoned Christ depicted in the lines of Psalm 142.  Its traditional Hebrew title: A maskil of David.  When he was in the cave, refers to the episode recounted in the First Book of Samuel 22:1, when the desperate, driven David sought refuge from the fury of King Saul. 


Whether actually from the time of David or set down centuries later, Psalm 142 is a prophetic lament perfectly fulfilled in the suffering of Jesus Christ, the Son of David. The New Testament records a number of times when our Lord cried out with His human voice: at the raising of Lazarus John 11, during the Agony in the Garden (cf. Hebrews 5:7), in His last moments on the Cross. Matt.27:46; Mark15:37; Luke 23:46  The Gospels describe our Lord’s enemies laying snares for Him and His disciples abandoning Him.  But I am not alone, Jesus declared, because the Father is with me.  John 16:32  Thus, the great High Priest confirms what the priest-psalmist avowed centuries before: I cry to You, O Lord.  I have said: “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”


The Father heard the cry of His Anointed One, because in the Resurrection, God brought His soul out of the prison of death and into the eternal land of the living.  There, the just redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb assemble, praising forever the goodness of Him who raised Christ from the dead and gave Him glory.    1 Peter 1:21

Part 10
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