The brevity of Psalm 131 bears witness to its theme: humility and littleness before God.  This simple prayer has been described as both the song of a humble person and the song of a humbled people.  Attributed to David, the man after God’s own (humble) heart, it is not difficult to imagine the shepherd king offering to God this lowly little hymn.  Nor is it hard to envision David, the humbled and repentant sinner, praying this psalm to the merciful God in whom he found pardon, salvation and peace.

 

            Old Testament scholars also hear in Psalm 131 the voice of the Chosen People, humbled and humiliated, after the Exile.  Their hearts [were] not proud because they recognized their sinfulness and acknowledged their infidelity as the reason for their current state.  This people, poor, oppressed and dispossessed, accepted God’s punishment and set their souls in silence and peace as they awaited, in hope, their return to the Promised Land and the restoration of the Temple. 

 

            But Psalm 131 resonates most perfectly on the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David who is also and above all the Son of the Most High God.  He who declared that we should learn from Him because He is meek and humble of heart (cf. Matt. 11:29), is the only One who can say in all truth: My Heart is not proud.  Jesus, who humbled Himself even to death on a Cross, can rightly proclaim: I have not gone after things too great, nor marvels beyond me. 

 

            St. Francis of Assisi does not quote Psalm 131 in any of his writings.  However, the virtues which Psalm 131 extols – humility, simplicity, child-like trust, contentment in God – are clearly written in the book of the Little Poor Man’s life. The Seraphic Father’s heart was not proud because he kept it grounded in the truth of who he was and who God is.  Francis, who once sought the glory of knighthood, learned through prayer, faith and struggle, how to set his soul in silence and peace, so that he could rest in God, as content as the Babe of Bethlehem was in the arms of Mary, His Virgin Mother who made the Lord of majesty our Brother.

 

            Psalm 131 celebrates the humility which leads to the true exaltation which is holiness.  To those who cannot say my heart is not proud it offers a way to enter into the prayer of the meek and humble Jesus, the great Lesser Brother on whom St. Francis patterned his life and rooted his evangelical ideal.  This brief Song of Ascent is also a celebration of the fruitfulness of good choices: truly I have set my soul in silence and peace.  God is always waiting to speak to our hearts.  Jesus wants to make good on His word: My peace I give to you.  Yet, we are the ones who have to ready our souls so that God can speak, so that Jesus can bestow His gift of peace.  We have to choose, with the help of God’s grace, to become like little children so that, in silence and peace, we can nestle deep into the mystery of His merciful love.  It is then that we discover the joyful security of the “lesser ones” who with humble, silent, trusting hearts can truly hope in the Lord, both now and forever. 




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Psalm 131

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O Lord,

my heart is not proud,

nor haughty my eyes.

I have not gone after things too great,

nor marvels beyond me.

Truly I have set my soul in silence and peace,

as a child has rest in its mother’s arms,

even so my soul.

O Israel, hope in the Lord,

both now and forever!

 

 

The Song of Our Lesser Brother

PART 29