Psalm for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Psalm 119: 1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34

The entirety of Psalm 119 has to do with the Law of God, which is mentioned in every verse as one of nine distinct terms: law, precepts, ways, decrees, commandments, statutes, ordinances, words, promises. The longest psalm by far in the Psalter, it praises God for giving such splendid laws and instruction for the people to live by.

In its entirety, the psalm is acrostic: its twenty-two stanzas of eight verses each are in the order of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the eight verses within a stanza begins with the same letter, and each verse contains one word for “instruction” (tôrâ).  The creative genius of the psalmist is seen in the innovative ways in which the Law is extolled, each verse expressing a slightly different idea.

Blessed are they whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who observe his decrees, who seek him with all their heart.

From the very first verse, attention is focused on the Law and obedience to the Lord’s commandments. The psalmist employs a macarism, or beatitude, to describe the rewards that attend righteous living.

While the psalm expounds on many facets of the wonders of the law, today’s response focuses specifically on the way (derek) of the blameless. From the outset, we can see that the way or path of blamelessness is adherence to the Law of the LORD.

You have commanded that your precepts be diligently kept. Oh, that I might be firm in the ways of keeping your statutes! Be good to your servant, that I may live and keep your words. Open my eyes, that I may consider the wonders of your law.

Although the psalmist is obligated to keep the law, and to mind it carefully and constantly, the Law is not regarded as restrictive or oppressive. Rather, the psalmist asks to be shown the wonders of the Law.

The genuine desire to keep the Law is a prerequisite for offering sincere praise.

Instruct me, O LORD, in the way of your statutes, that I may exactly observe them. Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart.

The adherence the author seeks is not merely external observance. He prays for discernment, in order to keep the Law with his whole heart.

It is clear the psalmist aspires to a life of holiness, one which is certainly lived in conformity with God’s command but which is set on that path out of devotion and not out of fear of punishment

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