Commentary on Ps 111 for the 5th Sunday of Year A
Commentary written and recorded by Dr Noel nDonnelly.
Psalm setting (c) Noel Donnelly
Recorded by Grace Buckle
Graphic (c) Netta Ewing
audio of Ps 111
Psalm 111 (112) Commentary 5A
Psalm 111 is a Beatitude, one of the 25 beatitudes in the Book of Psalms. It starts with, “Happy is the person who fears the Lord!” That translation of the Hebrew word asre as “happy” is an unhappy one. It is used 26 times in the psalms and was used by Jesus in his Beatitudes. Asre doesn’t mean joyful or smilingly happy but rather suggests approval of or congratulations on a lifestyle where all the bits fit well together; there’s a sense of integrity or wholeness or shalom there. And that “fear of the Lord” doesn’t mean being afraid of God but rather a sense of awe, reverence and wonder at God’s almighty power and love.
Our liturgy sings 6 of the ten verses of the psalm. These verses spell out the features of a well-integrated human believer. Such a person lives a lifestyle of just living (justice I mentioned three times) and generous dealings (generosity is mentioned twice.) As our song puts it, this person is “a light in the darkness, being open-handed to the poor while trusting in the Lord”.
Irenaeus, a church father of the second century said. “The glory of God is a person who is fully alive!” The singer spells out this integrated way of life; it involves using gifts with generosity, trusting firmly in God, the source of all gifts. In a way, this psalm is a hymn of praise to God that such persons are around.
Our psalm builds on Isaiah’s sharing and sheltering of the homeless poor in the first reading and points onwards to the Gospel where Jesus invites us to let our good works shine so that God may be praised and be delighted that such people are around! The singer may humbly look around at the listeners and sense their basic goodness, while praising God with the ancient author of the song for such goodness all around.