April 8/Fifth Monday of Lent
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. ~ Ps 23
Today, the gently-flowing verses of the 23rd Psalm—a much-loved fixture beside sickbeds, at funerals and in times of distress—encourage us to let go. The psalm invites us to open our clenched fists and release whatever we are clinging to so fiercely, whether it is the deep grief of losing someone we love, the depletion of our souls by unexpected hardship or our own need to act as if we are in charge of our lives. For as the very grammar of the psalm shows us, God is in control.
Throughout these verses, the psalmist does not do much at all; God, however, makes him—makes us—lie down, leads us by still waters, restores our soul, guides us in the right paths. Each of these divine actions has as its object “me,” the pronoun attached to verb’s end in a tightly-knit relationship of actor and acted-upon. In the process of reading (or saying aloud) these verses of trust, we find ourselves drawing closer to God, so close, in fact, that we leave off describing him in the detached third person and enter into the intimacy of “you.” As the path in front of us leads into a “deep darkness,” as the Hebrew reads, (or, in the phrase that the King James translators erroneously but eternally gave the English language, the “valley of the shadow of death”), we reach for God instinctively, urgently.
You are here, your rod and your staff will protect me, you will comfort me. Perhaps as we prepare for the Holy Week that is to come, we will trust fully in God, knowing that whatever our circumstances, we need fear no evil, “for you are with me.”
Loving shepherd and generous host, comfort me with the goodness of your presence today and always. Amen.
For today’s readings, click here.