Psalm 145: 2-3, 8-9, 17-18
The responsorial psalm for this week is a hymn of praise of the greatness of God. Interestingly, the full psalm is in acrostic form, meaning that every verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
The five psalms that precede this one (Psalms 140-144) are all petitionary prayers; this psalm and the five that follow it (the last six psalms in the Book of Psalms) are all hymns of praise.
Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever.
The prayer begins with promises to praise the Lord daily, using specific verbs to describe his devotion. “Bless” (bārak) implies bending one’s knee in submission or reverence; “praise” (hālal), though it is sometimes used to refer to human beings, is most frequently used as a call to praise God. The psalmist exclaims that he will offer blessings and praise all his days.
As is seen so often in hymns of praise, it is the name of God that is lauded. To extol God’s name was a way of showing both reverence and praise.
“Devotion to praise is a mark of the truly filial heart. He who praises the Lord every day will praise him for the eternal Day” (Saint John Chrysostom, Expositio in Psalmos, 144, 2).
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.
The reason for this praise is the greatness of God. It is unfathomable, beyond human understanding. All one can do is stand in awe of God and give praise.
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.
Technical covenant language abounds here. God is described as gracious (hannûn), compassionate (rahûm), and filled with lovingkindness (hesed).
This correlates with how God described himself at his revelation to Moses in Exodus 34:6.
The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.
Note that this divine goodness is not reserved for Israel alone but is extended to all God’s works, including all people and all of natural creation. The covenant has been expanded to a universal embrace.
The LORD is just in all his ways and holy in all his works.
The Lord’s is a kingdom of justice (sedeq) in the sense that he responds with kindness and salvation to all those who invoke him and love him, and allows those who hate him to perish (verse 20, which is not included in this passage).
The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.
Another characteristic of God’s covenant is truth (ěmet). Here, it refers to the firmness or constancy with which the faithful rely on God. They can rely on God because God has entered into a solemn agreement with them, has made serious promises to them, and can be depended on to be faithful.
In order to experience the benefits of this covenant, one needs only to call upon God, who is always there to hear.