Psalm for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Psalm 128: 1-2, 3, 4-5

This week’s responsorial psalm comes from Psalm 128, which is classified as a Wisdom psalm. It clearly instructs, rather than addressing God in praise or thanksgiving.

This psalm proclaims that the ever-reliable God will bless the reverent.

Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored.

The psalm begins with a macarism, a formal statement that designates a person or group as blessed (or happy). A macarism specifies the characteristic that is the basis of the specified happiness and then goes on to describe the blessings that flow from that characteristic.

In this psalm, those who fear the LORD and who walk in God’s ways are called out as blessed. The blessing that flows from this attitude of mind and heart is a life of prosperity.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table.

The blessings promised here are both material good fortune and a large and extended family. Large families, like vast fields, were signs of fertility and prosperity. They not only provided companionship through life and partnership in labor, they were also assurances of protection in a hostile world.

The promise of future generations guaranteed perpetuity for the family; its bloodline and its name would survive death and would endure to the next generation.

Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD.

In the Wisdom tradition, fear of the Lord is the distinguishing characteristic of the righteous person. It denotes profound awe and amazement before the tremendous marvels of God. While this may include some degree of actual fright, it is the kind of fear that accompanies wonder at something amazing rather than a dread of potential mistreatment.

The one who fears the LORD is one who acknowledges God’s sovereignty and power and who lives in accord with the order established by God. If anyone is to be happy and enjoy the blessings of life, it is the one who fears the Lord.

Note how well this psalm complements and rounds out our first reading from Proverbs. Where Proverbs extolled the virtues of a worthy wife, here we see the virtues of a happily married man.

The LORD bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

The last verse redirects the focus from the good fortune of the individual to the blessing enjoyed by the entire nation, as indicated by the mention of Zion and Jerusalem. The blessings come from God, but God resides at the heart of the nation in Jerusalem, the city of Zion.

The good fortune of the individual is really a share in the good fortune of the nation.

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