by Dr Noel Donnelly
Psalm 68 is one of the longest and deeply felt psalms in the whole Bible.
Before the verses selected for our Sunday liturgy occur, the psalmist is up to his neck in deep water, somewhere or somehow struggling in the mire, so that his urgent prayers resound: “save me”, verse 1; “rescue me”; verse 14; “answer me!” (verse 16); “make haste to answer me!” verse 17; “draw near me!” (18); “redeem me!” and “set me free!” (Verse 18); “protect me!” (19). Such repetition obviously shows the intensity in the psalmist’s pain. We may echo verse 10, “I burn with zeal for God’s house yet the taunts keep falling on me!” But the repeated response from verse 14 wonderfully focusses on God’s love: “In your great love, answer me, O Lord!”
With all that going on, we can now sing the prayerful verses selected by the liturgists for today’s Sunday: the assurance of God’s love follows the understandable complaint of Jeremiah that evil people seem to prosper while they continue to heap criticism on the good folk. Any sad mood is lifted in the Gospel where Jesus encourages the Twelve: if God can care for a sparrow and a hair of one’s head then we have nothing to fear.
The verses that we sing on the 12th Sunday of Year A form a great song of petition to a loving God: the psalmist prays. “In your great love answer me, for your love is kind and full of compassion!” (Verse 16). From his or her “poverty and pain” the singer’s faith is inspired by the certainty of God’s love, a love that is named as “great” and “kind”.
The question of how love comes to us may lead us onwards. As the Scottish rock group Wet Wet Wet put it, “Love is all around!” Today we can expand that as we acknowledge that God is close to us from his Word and, importantly, from our neighbour if we’ll only look for it and accept it! Love is all around!
Psalm 68: words (c) The Grail, England; music (c) Gerry Fitzpatrick, St Mungo Music