Psalm for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Psalm 67: 2-3, 5, 6, 8

The verb-forms in this week’s responsorial psalm make it difficult to be categorized. Some commentators believe the verbs are in past tense, classifying the psalm as a prayer of thanksgiving for blessings already received. Others consider them a form of wish or bidding prayer, a moderate request for blessings not yet enjoyed.

Regardless, this psalm is a prayer of blessing. It fits perfectly with the main theme of this week’s readings: salvation and righteousness are available to all, not just those who belong to the right cultural or religious group.

May God have pity on us and bless us; may he let his face shine upon us.

The psalm begins with a slight adaptation of the first words of the blessing used by Aaron and the priests, who were descended from him (Numbers 6:24-26). The use of the Aaronic blessing in a congregational prayer suggests the favors once promised to that particular priestly family are now sought for the entire people.

The metaphor of God’s shining face refers to the favorable disposition that smiling reflects. The psalmist is asking that God look favorably upon the people, that he be benevolent toward them.

So may your way be known upon earth; among all nations, your salvation.

God’s goodness to the people will redound to his reputation among other nations. They will see the people’s good fortune and will interpret it as the fruit of God’s saving power on their behalf and God’s continued rule over them. The other nations will conclude that only a mighty and magnanimous God would be able to secure such good fortune.

May the nations be glad and exult because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.

The psalm moves from an acknowledgment of divine rule over one people to an announcement of universal divine governance. All nations will not only rejoice over God’s goodness, they will also be guided by the same God.

In other words, the good fortune of one nation is testimony to the salvific activity of God. This, in turn, becomes the occasion of salvation for all the earth. One nation is the source of blessing for all.

This is the fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3).

May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us, and may all the ends of the earth fear him!

The psalm ends with a prayer for continued universal blessing. Whether these blessings are in the past or future, the psalmist believes all good fortune comes from God. Others see and praise God, and in this way God is made known to all the earth.

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