Psalm 90: 12-17
This week’s responsorial psalm comes from Psalm 90, a lament from a community that is in great distress. They ask for God’s pity and plea for his intervention.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Only God can provide the wisdom that lets one make sense of human life, short as it is and marked by toil and trouble — and so the community asks to be be given wisdom.
Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
Apparently the people have been suffering for some time, for they cry out to God in prayer: “How long?”
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
The people’s confidence in God’s willingness to relent from chastising the community and to grace it with kindness (hesed) is based on the covenant relationship that it shares with God. God has made a promise, and even in the face of the people’s infidelity God will honor that promise.
Daybreak usually brings thoughts of hope. The gradual appearance of light dispels the darkness of despair and speaks of promise and well-being.
Make us glad, for the days when you afflicted us, for the years when we saw evil.
Israel’s way of understanding suffering was quite complex. They seldom questioned why their enemies were burdened with misfortune. The reason for this was obvious to them: enemies of God were enemies of God, and so they deserved to suffer hardship.
The misfortune that befell Israel was quite another matter. If it was a punishment for ungodly behavior, it was seen as necessary recompense meant to restore the harmony that had been disturbed by the sin. However, even this kind of distress was thought to be only temporary. The people expected that the guilty ones would recognize their error and reform their ways, and then good fortune would return.
The pleading found in this psalm arises from a situation from which relief has been long in coming — too long, in fact.
Let your work be seen by your servants and your glory by their children; and may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands!
God’s deliverance of the people will glorify God in the eyes of those who are set free and of those from whom they are set free. Everyone will see and acknowledge God’s graciousness toward his people. God will be known as the one who hears the cry of the afflicted and who rescues them.