Psalm for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Psalm 33: 1, 12, 18-22

This week’s responsorial psalm is from Psalm 33, a hymn in which the just are invited to praise God, who by a mere word created the universe.

Exult, you just, in the LORD; praise from the upright is fitting. Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.

The responsorial open with an invocation to praise.

Everything in this passage speaks of covenant relationship with God:

  • Only the just and the upright, those who have remained faithful to their pact with God, are called upon to praise the LORD.
  • Only one nation was chosen by God to be a special people, to be God’s own inheritance: the covenanted nation of Israel. The macarism (“blessed” or “happy”) is spoken of Israel, the nation chosen as God’s inheritance.
  • The next verse speaks of God’s kindness using technical covenant language (hesed).

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.

The psalmist has moved from consideration of creation to that of divine providence. For whom does God care? For all those who fear the LORD.

In this context, fear means standing in awe. Having surveyed the marvels of creation and having reflected on the trustworthy word of God that called them into being, what other attitude would be appropriate?

This is wisdom language, and wisdom, like creation, spreads its influence across the entire universe. It enjoys a universal sway. These verses suggest that anyone with the requisite religious attitude will be gathered under the wings of God’s providence and will be protected from famine and death.

Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield.

Here we see the worshipping community’s response after listening to the proclamation of the psalmist.

God is described as our help (’ēzer; the same word that describes Eve in Genesis 2:18,20) and our shield (māgēn). Together, the two words suggest some kind of military protection. There is no indication in these verses that the People of God are under any siege, but it may be because God, who has chosen to be in covenant with them, is always attentive to their safety and is with them as protector.

May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in you.

The last verse is addressed directly to God, praying for the covenant bond of lovingkindness (hesed).

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