The fourth of the series of psalms known as the Hallel, Psalm 116 has been sung by generations of faithful Jews after the Passover meal.  It was sung by our Lord on the evening of the Last Supper.  In the Upper Room, Psalm 116 became the hymn of the new and eternal covenant.  In Psalm 116 the great Eucharist of Christ unfolds, and we hear the voice of the Bridegroom intoning the new song of redemption.

 

            Scholars have debated the origins of Psalm 116.  Was it originally one psalm which, for thematic purposes, was divided into two?  Or was it two psalms which, for liturgical purposes, were joined into one?  The current Liturgy of the Hours presents Psalm 116 both ways. We suspect that back in the 13th century, Scripture-loving St. Francis of Assisi probably prayed it both ways, savoring its Christological implications and seeking to relate the inspired text to his own life.

 

            This was not hard to do.  For the very first words of Psalm 116, I love the Lord, would awaken in the Little Poor Man a desire to love in the manner of his Divine Master who laid down His life so that the world would know He loved the Father.  cf. John 14:31  The early Franciscan sources bear witness to how diligently St. Francis sought to make his whole life a proclamation of love for the Lord.  Let us love the Lord our God, living and true, Francis would urge his followers.  Love is not loved, was his anguished cry when beholding the indifference and ingratitude of a sin-sated world.  Dear Lord, I would like to love You was the heartfelt appeal of the saint of Assisi in times of weariness, weakness or trial.

 Back Road

           

                     Psalm 116 celebrates a twin marvel: GOD HEARS and GOD ANSWERS!   God hears when anyone calls, at any time, in any need.  The Incarnation “put flesh” on the image: for He turned His ear to me when I called Him.  For the Gospels show us Jesus literally turning His ear to those who called Him.  Full of courtesy and compassion, our Lord answered – and invites us to believe in a heavenly Father who hears the cry of our appealand answers!  Dying on the Cross, surrounded by the snares of death, faced with the anguish of the tomb, Jesus called on the Lord’s name: My God, my God!  And the Father responded by raising Him from the dead.  

 

            This fact of faith filled St. Francis with gratitude.  How many personal proofs he had of God hearing the cry of his appeal and answering – perhaps not right away, perhaps not in the way he envisioned.  But, there was always an answer.  It is a matter of keeping ears and heart open to God’s way of responding.  Francis heard God’s reply to his appeals – in a passage from the Gospel, in the events of daily life with his friars, in the imprinting of the wounds of Christ on his body. The Lord still invites His children to give voice to the cry of their appeal, to wait for His answering love and, hearing the voice of His reply, to walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.

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Psalm 116

I

 

I love the Lord for He has heard

the cry of my appeal;

for He turned His ear to me

in the day when I called Him.

They surrounded me,

the snares of death,

with the anguish of the tomb;

they caught me,

sorrow and distress.

I called on the Lord’s name:

O Lord, my God,

deliver me!

How gracious

is the Lord,

and just;

our God

has compassion.

The Lord protects the simple hearts;

I was helpless, so He saved me.

Turn back, my soul, to your rest

for the Lord has been good;

for He has kept

my soul from death,

my eyes from tears,

my feet from stumbling.

I will walk

in the presence of the Lord

in the land of the living.

God Hears, God Answers
PART 6