Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lectio Divina - Psalm 1

Prayer Before Reading Scripture:  Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth."

"Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful" Psalm 1:1 (1979 BCP).  We can take instruction on how to live our lives from one of two places, from God or from "the world."   Those who take instructions from "the wicked" that is, those who do not respect and obey God cannot expect true happiness.  The Psalmist tells us that the righteous man does not "linger in the way of sinners."   How often Oh, my God have I done this through the course of my life.  How often have I gone to places I should not have been, watched movies I perhaps should not have watched, or viewed images which excited sinful feelings and emotions.  I have "lingered in the way of sinners" in order to get a temporary thrill or a momentary pleasure with no thought for eternity.  I have "sat in the seats of the scornful."  I have laughed with those who scorn God and the Church.  I have intentionally on occasion scoffed at the notion that God is real and is everywhere with us.   With the help of Your Holy Word and Sacraments I hope to do better in the future to achieve the happiness promised by the Psalmist to those who do not do these things.

"Their delight is in the law of the LORD, and they meditate on his law day and night."  Psalm 1:2.    Does this mean that I should become like some ultra-orthodox Jews who send their wives out to work so that they can go the Yeshiva and study Torah all day?  That is certainly the literal sense in which this verse has been interpreted.  Or is it something much more spiritual?

To delight in the law of the LORD means that one will strive to obey God's law and to enjoy all the good things of faith.  To meditate on his law day and night may mean more than study, although it surely means this as well.  A verse well beloved of Evangelical Christians is 2 Timothy 2:15: "Carefully study to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (Douay-Rheims Bible).  But more than this, like Mary, we are to "ponder these things in our hearts".  Then the living Torah, Jesus Christ, will truly dwell with us.

"They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper." (Psalm 1:3).    The prosperity referenced here is obviously not wordly prosperity.  Jesus said "Blessed are the poor".  Some of the most righteous people who are the closest to God are destitute in the eyes of the world.  It also does not mean that the righteous soul can expect good health or the absence of pain and suffering.   The greatest saints endured the greatest of suffering.  There is no Prosperity Gospel in real Christianity.  The prosperity spoken of here is the prosperity of Saint Therese of Lisieux or Saint Bernadette who suffered much but in the eyes of the world accomplished absolutely nothing in their short painful lives.  But millions of faithful people have drank from the well spring of Living Water that has gushed forth as the fruit of their lives and many souls have been converted and many prayers have been answered. This is the prosperity which the Psalmist speaks of.

"It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff which the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgement comes, nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.  For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed."  (Psalm 1:4-6).  The Psalmist now compares the prosperity of the righteous with the doom of the wicked.  In this life, the wicked may indeed triumph and prosper.  But without spiritual roots, a worldly person is blown about by the changing fortunes of life.  Poverty and sickness will destroy such a person.  The day of judgment is coming for all of us.  The righteous who know and love God will go to be with Him and go deeper into His love forever.  The wicked, the unrepentant sinner who refuses God's grace, will be forever condemned to an eternity without God.  This is the spiritual condition called Hell.

Prayer after reading scripture:  O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations.  Through Christ Our Lord.  Amen.

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