Psalm for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Psalm 147:1-6

This week’s responsorial psalm comes from the final stanza of Psalm 147, which praises God’s protection of and solicitude toward the people of Israel.

Praise the LORD,

The psalm opens with a summons to praise the LORD (hallelujah in Hebrew). The summons itself (hallelu) appears in a plural verb form, suggesting a communal setting. It also contains an abbreviation of the divine name (jah).

for he is good; sing praise to our God, for he is gracious; it is fitting to praise him.

The summons to praise God also states that God is good and gracious. Examples of God’s goodness are then provided.

The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem; the dispersed of Israel he gathers.

Example #1: God gathers the people have they have been dispersed and rebuilds the city of Jerusalem, which had been destroyed.

This has always been regarded as more than merely a political restoration; it was a second chance at being God’s chosen people, almost a new creation. It was linked with the promises of a “new covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31), a “new heart and … a new spirit” (Ezekiel 36:26).

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Example #2: God comforts and sustains his people.

It isn’t enough that God re-establishes the nation and rebuilds Jerusalem, the center of the people’s religious, political, and social life. God also comforts them in their suffering, caring for them with tenderness and being particularly attentive to those in distress (“the brokenhearted”). God is depicted as being personally involved in nursing those who are wounded.

The extent of God’s graciousness is seen here, for it was shown to a sinful people, not one who had remained faithful.

He tells the number of the stars; he calls each by name.

Example #3: God is all-powerful.

This reference may at first seem out of place; however, a closer look will reveal the role this reference plays in describing God. Many people believed (and still believe) that their destiny is determined by the positions of heavenly bodies. By stating that God is the one who numbers the stars and names them, the psalmist is making a claim of God’s creative power over the cosmos. Therefore one can conclude that the destiny of individuals or of entire nations is totally under God’s control.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; to his wisdom there is no limit. The LORD sustains the lowly; the wicked he casts to the ground.

The final reasons for praising God are God’s power, wisdom, and justice. However, these characteristics have already been demonstrated in earlier verses:

  • God’s mighty power was demonstrated in the re-establishment of the people and in his power over the heavenly bodies.
  • It is particularly in the wonders of creation that divine wisdom is manifested.
  • God’s justice is seen in the punishment meted out to the guilty and the tender care given to those who suffer.

All of these are reasons to praise the LORD!

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