Psalm for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Psalm 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13

This week’s responsorial psalm is from Psalm 30, a psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from the peril of death, the netherworld, the pit.

I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear and did not let my enemies rejoice over me. O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld; you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.

The psalmist has been delivered from some kind of near-death experience. It might have been illness, depression, or any serious misfortune that can threaten life itself. Whatever it might have been, the danger is now past; God intervened and saved the petitioner.

The word translated as “netherworld” is Sheol, the shadowy underworld residence of the spirits of the dead, here used as a metaphor for near-death.

In addition to the actual calamity, the psalmist was also concerned with enemies who would take delight in the misfortune. God preserved the psalmist from this insult as well.

Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.

The psalmist next turns to the congregation of believers and calls on them to praise God.

For his anger lasts but a moment; a lifetime, his good will. At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing.

The prayer’s range of focus is extended by noticing how God acts: his favor far exceeds his anger.

Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me; O LORD, be my helper.

The psalmist turns again in prayer to God, pleading for mercy (“have pity on me”) and for grace to help in his time of need (“be my helper”).

You changed my mourning into dancing; O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.

In due time, God delivered the psalmist out of his troubles and restored him to his former prosperity; his prayers were answered. Regardless of the nature of or reason for the misfortune, God can be trusted to come to the aid of one who cries for help.

The image of his mourning being turned into dancing reflects a change in the external expression (probably in a liturgical context) of his inward state. He is now experiencing the joy that accompanies praise.

For this, the psalmist pledges, he will be forever grateful.

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