Commentary Ps 14 for Sunday 16C, July 17th 2022,  by Dr Noel Donnelly

video:   Ps 14 Commentary

script: Psalm 14 / 15          Commentary 16C

Psalm 14 begins with a rather troubled question to God: “Lord, who will be welcome to abide in your tent?” In this psalm the pilgrim is thought to be pausing at the Temple precincts, preparing to a meeting with God. “Will you really welcome me, Lord?” s/he asks. God answers the questioner: “Here are ten areas of life that ideally prepare you for meeting me any sacred liturgical ceremony”. Five of the answers are positive (verses 2 and 4) and five negative (verses 3 and 5). Positive are “The ones who walk each day with integrity, speak truthfully from their heart and ever do what is just” … that’s verse 2; and “the one who is lowly in his or her own eyes, respects the people who show fear of the Lord in their lives, and who keep their word and their promises”, verse 4. The negative dispositions are about avoiding slander and abusive language or engaging in tittle-tattle… that’s in verse 3;  and avoiding bribery or charging interest on loans; that’s verse 5.

In our Sunday liturgy, this psalm, is as usual, a bridge between the first reading and the Gospel. Both readings are about hospitality: the hospitality of Abraham to the three travellers in the Genesis reading, and that of Martha and Mary in the Gospel. Hospitality really means putting yourself as a servant to your guest, seeing to his or her needs, not pushing your own agenda.  The word hospitality is linked to words like hospital and hospice.

The psalm suggests that after our worship we may try to live fruitfully with the renewed good dispositions and actions that the psalm has stirred up in us, avoiding slander and abusive language or engaging in tittle-tattle in verse 3, and avoiding bribery or charging interest on loans; that’s verse 5. That bit about lending money could also mean for us to continue using our vote to challenge our rich government when it charges interest on loans for crops to poor countries, or when it hoards expensive weapons of mass destruction, when the fortunes spent there could be better used for health care at home and abroad, or for supporting us as we try to care for the influx of desperate refugees in their struggles for freedom, seeking hospitality for themselves and their families.

In Psalm 14 we ask God a question but may not like the challenging answer. After meeting the Lord in love, we go out to meet the practical demands of love in the paths and opportunities around us. Psalm 14 and the readings offer a challenge for my hospitality right on my doorstep, perhaps even in my local hospital and hospice.

audio of the psalm:

graphic (c) Netta Ewing