Psalm 66: 1-7, 16, 20
Our responsorial psalm for this week comes from Psalm 66, a psalm that summons the people to praise God, provides reasons for giving such praise, and ends with individual expressions of thanksgiving.
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, sing praise to the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise. Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds! Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you, sing praise to your name!”
The praise that is summoned is universal in scope: all on earth are called to praise the God of Israel. The object of the praise is the name of God, the name that identifies the very essence of God himself.
Come and see the works of God, his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam. He has changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot; therefore let us rejoice in him. He rules by his might forever.
The reason for glorifying God is given: the wondrous feats God has accomplished. The two specific feats cited are the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry land as they escaped the Egyptians (Exodus 14-15) and the dividing of the Jordan River as the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land forty years later (Joshua 3:7-17).
These historical water crossing events serve as bookends for a particular chapter in Israel’s history, the chapter in which a motley group of slaves was fashioned into a nation. In addition to praising God for the miraculous water crossings themselves, Israel’s rite of passage from one stage of existence to another is also reason for profound gratitude and praise.
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare what he has done for me.
Subduing chaotic waters was understood by ancient Near Eastern tradition as a power held only by the warrior who created the universe. In this creation story, the victorious warrior is acclaimed as king over all creation. Traces of this royal acclamation are found here.
Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness!
Note how the communal dimension found at the outset of this psalm has given way to an individual focus. Perhaps this means that the psalmist benefits from the blessings bestowed on the nations, or it may be that the psalmist has received some particular individual blessing.
In either case, others are invited to join the psalmist in grateful praise of God.
“When the soul recalls the gifts he has received from God over a long time, and contemplates the graces that God gives him in abundance in the present, or turns his eyes to the future and the infinite reward that God has stored up for those who love him, he gives thanks in the midst of inexpressible waves of joy” (Cassian, Collationes, 9).