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

Psalm 138: 1-5, 7-8

The responsorial psalm for this Sunday is an individual prayer of thanksgiving addressed directly to God.

Attributed to King David, this psalm reflects with gratitude on his experiences of God’s goodness and looks forward with comfort to the continued outpouring of God’s grace.

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple.

The psalmist has come to the temple to worship and witness publicly to the goodness of God.

The presence of angels (’elōhîm) suggests the court of heaven, where they stood in reverence around the throne of God. Since the temple was thought to be the earthly representation of the heavenly divine dwelling, it was not unusual for Israel to believe angels were somehow in the same kind of attendance in the temple on earth. Therefore, standing in the temple in the presence of God, the psalmist would also be in the presence of the attending angels.

I will give thanks to your name, because of your kindness and your truth:

The reason for the psalmist’s gratitude is God’s faithfulness to the covenant commitment. This is clear from the presence of technical covenant language: lovingkindness (hesed) and truth (’ěmet).

When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.

Evidently the psalmist had previously called upon the Lord while in trouble,  was heard, and had been inwardly strengthened. This is the reason for the prayer of gratitude.

This divine rescue was not the result of the psalmist’s virtues but of God’s loving fidelity.

All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to you, O LORD, when they hear the words of your mouth; and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD: “Great is the glory of the LORD.”

This desire that all nations (“kings of the earth”) should praise the Lord includes the demand that they recognize his revelation (“words”) and his purposes (“ways”).

This yearning for universal praise of God is expressed even more strongly in the New Testament, with emphasis being put on Jesus Christ on account of his humble obedience:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Your right hand saves me.

The psalmist confesses his trust in the Lord and his purposes, for he knows that the Lord is faithful.

The LORD will complete what he has done for me; your kindness, O LORD, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands.

The prayer of thanksgiving is concluded on a note of confidence that God’s covenant commitment will endure forever.

Having been made by God, God will not forsake him. God is not only faithful to past promises but will be faithful into the endless future.

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