Psalm 123: 1-2, 2, 3-4
This week’s responsorial psalm is from Psalm 123, a lament that begins by expressing supreme confidence in God and ends with a petition that God relieve the people’s humiliation at the hands of the arrogant.
This brief psalm is a fine example of piety expressed in prayer. For Christians, this prayer is even more heartfelt when addressed to Jesus Christ ascended into heaven.
To you I lift up my eyes who are enthroned in heaven —
The sentiments of the psalmist are clearly stated at the outset: lifting up one’s eyes is a gesture of humble longing, and the majesty of God is depicted in a simple reference to celestial enthronement.
Not only does God dwell in the heavens, but God reigns from there as a king governs from the throne.
as the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters. As the eyes of a maid are on the hands of her mistress, so are our eyes on the LORD, our God, till he have pity on us.
The simile of the servants helps to convey the people’s total dependence on God, from whom all good things come.
It might appear that this implies the kind of attentiveness that stems from fear; however, the word translated as “pity” (hānan) denotes a heartfelt desire to give to someone in need. It expresses the action of a superior to an inferior.
The whole tenor of the psalm suggests that the hands of God will dispense blessing rather than punishment.
Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us, for we are more than sated with contempt; our souls are more than sated with the mockery of the arrogant, with the contempt of the proud.
In an attempt to get the Lord to act, the psalmist cites the plight of the community. The people who have turned to God for help are overwhelmed by disdain from others. It’s possible that this sentiment follows the simile of the servants to make the point that if the servants are treated badly, it implies an insult to their master.
Details of their predicament are not given, but they appear to be victims of the pride and arrogance of others, but this might be a reference to the hostility the Jews encountered while they were rebuilding the temple after their return from exile (Nehemiah 2:19, 3:36-37).
Regardless of the desperate nature of their situation (“more than sated”), they have turned to God with confidence, trusting that this sovereign God who reigns over all will snatch them from their predicament and be gracious in bestowing the favors they need.