Psalm for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Psalm 117:1-2

The responsorial psalm for this week comes from Psalm 117, the shortest psalm in the entire psalter. The entire psalm consists of these two verses.

It consists of two invitations to all the nations to praise the Lord, and two reasons for that praise. It is a model hymn of praise, composed with perfect internal parallelism.

Praise the LORD all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples!

This is a hymn with a universal point of view: all nations (gôyim) and all peoples (’ûmmîm) are called on to give praise and glory to the God of Israel.

For steadfast is his kindness toward us, and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.

The reason for this praise is the wonderful deeds God has accomplished on behalf of Israel.

Two technical covenant words are used to describe God’s beneficence: lovingkindness (hesed) and truth, or fidelity (’ěmet). God’s love and faithfulness, which he has shown the people of Israel, are stronger than the people’s sin; this means that God’s promises and the Covenant will endure forever.

This brief psalm points out an important dimension of the election of Israel: The blessings granted to God’s Chosen People were not intended for them alone; Israel was to be the instrument of God’s universal goodness. Others were to look on Israel and see not a great nation but a lowly one, a nation that became great through the mercy of God. This was the message Israel was chosen to proclaim, this was the good news of universal salvation.

The psalm acquires its full meaning after the resurrection of Christ and when the Gospel is being preached to all nations.

“This psalm contains the prophecy that the Church and the teaching of the Gospel would spread to the ends of the earth” (Saint John Chrysostom, Expositio in Psalmos, 116).


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