Part 2

Knowing the Father


Psalm 103

II

O The Lord is compasssion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
His wrath will come to an end;
He will not be angry forever.
He does not treat us according to our sins
non repay us according to our faults.
For as the heavens are high above the earth
so strong is His love for those who fear Him.
Asfar asthe east is from the west
so far does He remove our sins.
As a father has compassion on his sons,
the LORD has pity on those who fear Him;
for He knows of what we are made,
He remembers that we are dust.
As far man, his days are like grass;
he flowers like the flower in the field;
the wind blows and he is gone
and jhis place never sees him again

In addition to being inspired prayers, the psalms also offer inspired "teaching moments." Within the Psalter there is a whole category classified as didactic, or, teaching psalms. But even in those psalms which are primarily concerned with the praise of God, there are verses which can not only enliven our prayer, but also enrich and deepen our knowledge of God.

The second section of Psalm 103 offers such a "teaching moment." It begins by echoing God's self-revelation to Mose:- - The LORD, the -LORD- a God mercifull and gracious, slow --to-anger -and-- -abounding in steadfast love. (Ex. 34:6-7) This is the reason why God is so active in our lives —forgiving, healing, redeeming, and renewing. He is true to Himself, and He is faithful to us as Creator and as Father.

What a wondrous, heart-shaking, life-changing revelation — God, the Infinite, the Almighty, the All-Holy, is first and foremost, a Father! Revealing the true Face of the Father is the heart of Jesus' mission on earth. Yet, even before the Incarnation, Old Testament texts like Psalm 103 offered a preview of what the New Testament confirmed and generations of Christians have confessed: God is a Father.

This Father is merciful because He is almighty: He knows of what we are made, He remembers that we are dust. Such knowledge of who God is leads to an investigation into what we are. Psalm 103 describes that also. The human person is weak, small, transitory. This is precisely what makes him the object of God's special care.  As one author remarked, Man is so tiny that God cannot help but love him.

St. Francis of Assisi, that accomplished student of the psalms, mastered these three lessons well. From his conversion until his final illness, the Little Poor Man continually experienced the gracious, merciful God at work in his life. When Francis renounced his inheritance and returned to his father even the clothes he wore, the future saint discovered he could unabashedly declare: Now I can truly say, 'Our Father who art in heaven!' His knowledge of the Fatherhood of God deepened down the years, as through long nights in prayer he repeated: Who are You, my dearest Lord, and what am I?

We do not know how often St. Francis prayed Psalm 103. It is said that his papal namesake prays it daily. In his book, CHRIST IN THE PSALMS, Orthodox pastor Father Patrick H. Reardon recommends two especially graced ways to pray Psalm 103: as part of our thanksgiving after sacramental Confession and while praying before an image of the Crucified. The four dimensions of the Cross — its height, depth, breadth and length — are the dimensions of God's mercy. God's mercy is not a hazy benevolence. It has a definite history which climaxes in specific acts of salvation. It is in recognizing those specific acts in our personal history that we learn what St. Francis knew so well: we have a Father in heaven, and He is gracious and merciful and loving.


The Poor Clare Nuns Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy 300 North 60th Street Belleville, Illinois 62223-3927 U.S.A.






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