Psalm for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Psalm 138: 1-3, 6, 8

The responsorial psalm for this Sunday is an individual prayer of thanksgiving addressed directly to God.

Attributed to King David, this psalm reflects with gratitude on the experiences he had had of God’s goodness and looks forward with comfort to the continued outpouring of God’s grace.

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple.

The psalmist has come to the temple to worship and witness publicly to the goodness of God.

The presence of angels (’elōhîm) suggests the court of heaven, where they stood in reverence around the throne of God. Since the temple was thought to be the earthly representation of the heavenly divine dwelling, it was not unusual for Israel to believe angels were somehow in the same kind of attendance in the temple on earth. Therefore, standing in the temple in the presence of God, the psalmist would also be in the presence of the attending angels.

I will give thanks to your name, because of your kindness and your truth:

The reason for the psalmist’s gratitude is God’s faithfulness to the covenant commitment. This is clear from the presence of technical covenant language: lovingkindness (hesed) and truth (’ěmet).

When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.

Evidently the psalmist had previously been in trouble, had called upon the LORD for help, had been heard, and had been inwardly strengthened. This is the reason for the prayer of gratitude.

This divine rescue was not the result of the psalmist’s virtues but of God’s loving fidelity.

The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees, and the proud he knows from afar.

The psalmist acknowledges that the LORD is exalted, lifted high in glory, yet attentive to those who are humble or of mean estate.

Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands.

We have already seen that God’s goodness springs from covenant commitment. The psalmist concludes the prayer of thanksgiving on a note of confidence that this commitment will endure forever. God is not only faithful to past promises but will be faithful into the endless future.

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