Papal Address at Wednesday General Audience

Morning Prayer Helps One Face an Often Hostile World

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address at today´s general audience.



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1. "In the morning thou dost hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for thee, and watch." With these words, Psalm 5 is presented as a morning prayer and, therefore, is well placed in the liturgy of Lauds, the song of the faithful at the beginning of the day. The background tone of this supplication is marked by the tension and anxiety over the dangers and afflictions that lie ahead. However, confidence in God is not diminished, ever ready to sustain his faithful so that he will not stumble in the path of life.

"No one except the Church possesses such confidence" (Jerome, Tractatus LIX in Psalms, 5,27: PL 26,829). And St. Augustine, recalling attention to the title given the Psalm, a title that in its Latin version states: for her who receives the inheritance, explains: "this refers, therefore, to the Church, which receives eternal life as inheritance through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that she possesses God himself, adheres to Him, and finds her happiness in Him, in keeping with what is written: ´Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth´" (Matthew 5:4). (Enarr. in Ps., 5: CCL 38,1,2-3).

2. As often happens in the Psalms of "supplication" addressed to the Lord to be delivered from evil, there are three characters who enter the scene in this Psalm. Here, first of all, God appears (verses 2-7), the "You" par excellence of the Psalm, to whom the person praying turns with confidence. A certainty emerges in face of the worries of an exhausting and perhaps dangerous day. The Lord is a consistent God, rigorous in confronting injustice, alien to any compromise with evil: "For thou art not a God who delights in wickedness" (verse 5).

A long list of evil people -- the boastful, the foolish, evildoers, liars, the bloodthirsty and the deceitful -- pass before the Lord´s eyes. He is the holy and just God and he is on the side of the one who walks on the path of truth and love, opposing the one who chooses "the paths that lead to the kingdom of darkness" (see Proverbs 2:18). The faithful one, then, does not feel alone and abandoned when he faces the city, entering society and the tangle of daily affairs.

3. In verses 8-9 of our morning prayer the second character, the man of prayer, presents himself with an "I," revealing that his whole person is dedicated to God and to his "great mercy." He is sure that the doors of the temple, namely, the place of communion and divine intimacy, bolted by the godless, are opened wide before him. He enters therein to experience the safety of divine protection, while outside, evil rages and celebrates its apparent and ephemeral triumphs.

From the morning prayer in the temple, the faithful one receives the interior drive to face an often hostile world. The Lord himself will take him by the hand and lead him on the streets of the city, indeed, he will "make straight the way," as the Psalmist says, using a simple but thought-provoking image. In the Hebrew original this serene confidence is based on two words (hésed and sedaqáh): "Mercy or faithfulness" on one hand, and "justice or salvation" on the other. They are the typical words that celebrate the covenant that unites the Lord with his people and with every faithful individual.

4. Here, finally, the dark figure of the third character of this daily drama is outlined in the horizon: They are the "enemies," the wicked, who were already in the background in the preceding verses. After the "You" of God and the "I" of the man of prayer, there is now a "They" that indicates a hostile mass, symbol of the evil of the world (verses 10-11). Their physiognomy is sketched on the basis of the word, the fundamental element in social communication. Four elements -- mouth, heart, throat, tongue -- express the radicalness of the malice inherent in their choice. Their mouth is full of falsehood, their heart constantly plots wickedness, their throat is like an open sepulcher, quick to wish only death, their tongue is seductive, but "is full of mortal poison" (James 3:8).

5. After this harsh and realistic portrait of the perverse one who attacks the just man, the Psalmist invokes divine condemnation in a verse (verse 11), which Christian liturgy omits, thus hoping to be conformed to the New Testament revelation of merciful love, which also offers the possibility of conversion to the wicked.

At this point the Psalmist´s prayer comes to an end full of light and peace (verses 12-13), after the dark profile of the sinner just drawn. A wave of serenity and joy envelops the one who is faithful to the Lord. The day that now begins in front of the believer, although marked by effort and anxiety, will always have the sun of divine blessing on him. The Psalmist, who knows profoundly the heart and style of God, has no doubt: "Thou dost bless the righteous, O Lord; thou dost cover him with favor as with a shield" (verse 13).
[Translation by ZENIT]