Psalm 116 unfolds as a psalm of thanksgiving publicly proclaimed.  To the One who has kept [his] soul from death, the psalmist seeks to make a return – a notably liturgical return.  The lifting of the cup, the invocation of God’s Name, the fulfillment of vows were, in Old Testament times, liturgical actions to be performed within the precincts of the Temple in Jerusalem.

 

Our Lord, in fulfilling this psalm, took the Jewish thanksgiving ritual a step further.  In His saving sacrifice, He Himself became the perpetual thanksgiving – Eucharist for redeemed humanity.  He lifts to the heavenly Father, not the cup of God’s wrath, but the chalice of salvation filled with the Blood of the new and eternal Covenant.  Precious indeed in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful One, the well-beloved Son who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. Matt. 20:28

 

Recognizing God’s bountiful gifts, Francis of Assisi took his place among the grateful who ask: How can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me?  He spent a lifetime answering that question – calling on the Lord’s name in prayer, fulfilling the vows he had made to observe the holy Gospel, rooting his life and his spirituality in the great act of thanksgiving which is the Eucharist.  Contemplation of the Passion made St. Francis keenly aware of the preciousness of the death of God’s faithful One.   It also kindled his desire to be totally identified with Jesus, the suffering Servant.

 

Your servant, O Lord, Your servant am I; I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid.  The Marian allusion in this verse of Psalm 116 did not escape the Little Poor Man.  Indeed, after Jesus, who better than Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord, could teach him the art of being a true servant of God? 

 

Since I am the servant of all, he wrote in the Letter to the Faithful, I am obliged to serve all.  And he did serve ALL – the lepers, his brothers, the poor, the outcast, robbers and princes, beggars and priests.  For Francis, to serve others was a vital part of his gratitude to the merciful God who had loosened the bonds of sin and wealth and worldliness which once held him bound.

 

 How can WE repay the Lord for His goodness to US?  For grateful believers, the list is almost endless:

v  by faithfully fulfilling our Baptismal vows 

v  by uniting ourselves, frequently and fervently, to our Lord as the cup of salvation is raised at every Mass

v  by saying in truth: Your servant am I, because we see and serve Jesus in all we meet, and 

v  by making life a continual act of thanksgiving, because: Believing in God means living in thanksgiving.   Catechism 224

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Psalm 116

II

 

I trusted even when I said,

“I am sorely afflicted.”

And when I said in my alarm,

“No man can be trusted.”

How can I repay the Lord

for His goodness to me?

The cup of salvation I will raise;

I will call on the Lord’s name.

 

My vows to the Lord

I will fulfill

before all His people.

O precious

in the sight of the Lord

is the death

of His faithful.

Your servant,

O Lord,

Your servant am I;

I am Your servant,

the son

of Your handmaid;

You have loosened my bonds.

A thanksgiving sacrifice I make:

I will call on the Lord’s name.

 

My vows to the Lord

I will fulfill

before all His people,

in the courts of the house

of the Lord,

in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Alleluia!

Your Servant, am I!
PART 7