Psalm for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Psalm 65: 10-14

This week’s responsorial psalm picks up the theme of nature from the first reading for this Sunday but develops it in a different way. Whereas the passage from Isaiah concentrates on the unfolding of the life processes within nature itself, Psalm 65 praises God for the wonders he has accomplished in nature. At God’s touch, the earth comes alive with vegetation and flocks.

Note that the response itself is drawn from our gospel reading: “The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold” (Matthew 13:23).

You have visited the land and watered it; greatly have you enriched it. God’s watercourses are filled; you have prepared the grain.

God is praised for the natural wonders that make the world fertile. He is depicted as a farmer who can control the rainfall and the fertility of the earth.

Behind the praise of God’s control of the water may be a polemic against the fertility god Baal. The Canaanites believed this god regulated the heavenly waters that rained down upon the land, fertilizing it and making it fruitful.

Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield.

In the land of Palestine, autumn rains soften the land, allowing it to be malleable enough for plowing and cultivation, while the spring rains nourish the plants and provide growth. The psalmist claims it is the God of Israel who exercises power and control over all these processes.

You have crowned the year with your bounty, and your paths overflow with  a rich harvest; 

God’s blessing is why the yearly harvest is so abundant.

In Canaanite mythology, separate deities held sway over rainfall versus the harvest; in this psalm, the God of Israel oversees both. The author is showing that God has neither rival nor companion. He alone prevails over every aspect of the world.

the untilled meadows overflow with it, and rejoicing clothes the hills. 

Using very poetic language, the psalmist sees nature joining in man’s praise of the goodness of God (see also Isaiah 44:23, 49:13).

The fields are garmented with flocks and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy.

In addition to the plentiful harvest, another consequence of such abundance is extensive flocks. Animals (including human beings) require fertile fields off of which they can live. Where there is such land, herds will flourish.

Because of its frequent mention of harvest and abundant yield, the psalm lends itself to prayer at the time of harvest festivals. At harvest time, the field and the valleys, now ripe with growth, join in the joyful praise of God.

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