Meditation on Psalm 10(11)
"A Good God … Not a Mysterious Fate"
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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today at the general audience, which he dedicated to a reflection on Psalm 10(11).
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1. We continue our reflection on the Psalms, which constitute the essential text of the liturgy of vespers. We just heard Psalm 10 resound in our hearts, a brief prayer of trust that, in the Hebrew original, is dotted with the divine sacred name "Adonaj," the Lord. This name is heard in the beginning (see verse 1), it is found three times in the middle of the Psalm (see verses 4-5) and appears again at the end (see verse 7).
The spiritual tone of the whole song is well expressed in the concluding verse: "The Lord is just and loves just deeds; the upright shall see his face." This is the root of all trust and the source of all hope in the day of darkness and trial. God is not indifferent before good and evil; he is a good God, and not a dark, undecipherable and mysterious fate.
2. The Psalm develops substantially in two scenes. In the first (see verses 1-3), the wicked is described in his apparent triumph. He is sketched with images of a warlike and hunting character: He is the perverse one, who bends his bellicose or hunting bow to violently strike his victim, namely, the upright (see verse 2). Because of this, the latter is tempted by the thought to evade and free himself from such an implacable attack. He would like to "flee like a bird to the mountains" (verse 1), far from the whirlpool of evil, of the siege of the wicked, of the arrows of calumnies shot in betrayal by sinners.
There is a sort of discouragement in the righteous one who feels himself alone and impotent in face of the invasion of evil. It seems to him that the foundations of the just social order are shaken and the very bases of human coexistence undermined (see verse 3).
3. Then the great change comes, described in the second scene (see verses 4-7). The Lord, seated on the heavenly throne, embraces with his penetrating gaze the whole of the human horizon. From that transcendent position, sign of divine omniscience and omnipotence, God can scrutinize and sift every person, distinguishing good from evil, and vigorously condemning injustice (see verses 4-5).
Very evocative and consoling is the image of the divine eye whose pupil is fixed and attentive to our actions. The Lord is not a remote sovereign, enclosed in his golden world, but a vigilant Presence aligned on the side of good and justice. He sees and provides, intervening with his word and action.
The upright foresees that, as occurred at Sodom (see Genesis 19:24), the Lord "rains [upon the wicked] fiery coals and brimstone" (Psalm 10:6), symbols of God's judgment that purifies history, condemning evil. The wicked, struck by this blazing rain, which prefigures his ultimate fate, experiences finally that it is God "who is judge on earth!" (Psalm 57:12).
4. The Psalm, however, does not end with this tragic picture of punishment and condemnation. The last verse opens the horizon to light and peace destined for the righteous one who will contemplate his Lord, just judge, but above all, merciful liberator: "the upright shall see his face" (Psalm 10:7). It is an experience of joyful communion and serene trust in God who delivers from evil.
In the course of history, innumerable righteous have experienced something similar. Many accounts describe the trust of Christian martyrs in face of torments and their firmness, who did not flee from trials.
In the "Acts of Euplo" ("Atti di Euplo"), a deacon of Catania, killed under Diocletian around 304, the martyr breaks forth spontaneously in this sequence of prayers: "Thank you, O Christ: protect me because I suffer for you ... I adore the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I adore the Holy Trinity. ... Thank you, O Christ. Come to my help, O Christ! For you I suffer, Christ. ... Great is your glory, O Lord, in the servants that you have deigned to called to yourself! ... I thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, because your strength has consoled me; you have not permitted my soul to perish with the wicked and you have granted me the grace of your name. Confirm now that which you have done in me, so that the impudence of the Adversary will be confounded" (A. Hamman, "Preghiere dei Primi Cristiani," [Prayers of Early Christians], Milan, 1955, pp. 72-73).
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the following summary was read in English by one of the Pope's aides in the Secretariat of State:]
Psalm 10 speaks of the Lord on his throne on high who is attentive to all that is done on earth. The Psalm states clearly that God is not indifferent to right and wrong. God is good and while he condemns vigorously all injustice; he also comforts the righteous during their trials. He is their Savior and in his presence they will have peace. This hope has sustained many believers in their difficulties and given courage to countless martyrs.
[The Holy Father then greeted English-speaking pilgrims as follows:]
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today including groups from Finland, Ireland and the United States. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.