Psalm for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Psalm 15:2-5

Our responsorial psalm for this week comes from Psalm 15, which addresses the question of religious fitness.

In its entirety, the psalm describes a liturgical scrutiny at the entrance to the Temple court. The Israelite wishing to be admitted was required to ask the Temple official what conduct was appropriate to God’s precincts. This question produces a response that spells out eleven requirements related to honorable and loyal conduct towards others.

One who walks blamelessly

“Walk” refers to a way of life rather than any individual action.

and does justice; 

The foundation of this way of life is righteousness or justice, a characteristic of God. It refers to the divinely established norm against which everything else is measured.

Whatever conforms to God’s norm is considered righteous. In the human sphere, this takes on the meaning of justice. In this psalm, it refers to those who act in ways that are faithful to God’s will.

who thinks the truth in his heart and slanders not with his tongue.

Such faithfulness is not merely external conformity; it originates in their innermost being. Their thoughts are aligned with the truth of God’s righteousness, and their tongues speak accordingly.

Who harms not his fellow man, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; 

The admonition to righteousness is followed by examples of concrete ways of behavior in everyday life.

“Friend” or “companion” is a better translation of the Hebrew rē’eh, rather than “fellow man,” as it includes the idea of personal closeness and is not gender-specific.

Frequently, the quality of one’s virtue is tested in the intimacy of close relationships.

by whom the reprobate is despised, while he honors those who fear the LORD.

The wisdom theme of choosing one of two ways appears: the righteous person disdains the reprobate who has rejected God, but honors those who fear the LORD.

If one is to live in the presence of God, one must choose the way of God.

Who lends not his money at usury and accepts no bribe against the innocent. 

Those who stand in the presence of God do not take economic advantage of others. Two examples of economic vulnerability are given: the need to borrow money and victimization through bribery.

The suffering that comes with being in need is difficult enough; having to pay interest is an additional burden. In many societies, lending money is done as a service to others, not as a way of increasing one’s own capital. In such situations, demanding interest is unacceptable, even unjust.

Bribery is a corrupt practice that is doubly heinous when it abuses the innocent.

These economic practices of ancient Israel obviously differ than those of most modern western societies. The underlying principles can motivate us even without a mandate to adopt the practices themselves.

One who does these things shall never be disturbed.

A person who fulfills these conditions is pleasing to the Lord, therefore their life is on sure ground.

Note how the requirements are not related to ritual cleanness or sacrificial offerings; they have to do with upright behavior towards others as laid down by God’s covenant with his people (Exodus 20:1-17).

This psalm is borne out to the fullest in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, who taught that love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbor.

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