Psalm 26 Com.

Three times in Psalm 26 does the singer seek the face of God. An abstract theoretical presence is not much help in today’s challenging times. The psalmist seeks the face of one who is MY light, My salvation, My stronghold. So it’s a very personal prayer. In its mere fourteen verses, the word “me” or “I” is used thirty-six times! 

That personal journey has three stages: verses 1 – 6 sing about the psalmist’s appreciation of God’s protection: they come to a climax as the singer exclaims, “I will sing and make music for the Lord!”.  In the next few verses we find really urgent prayers for God to continue protection: “Do not abandon or forsake me! Do not hide your face from me! Teach me, Lord; what is your way for me?” The psalm ends by addressing the listeners with this wonderful prayer of hope: “I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Hope in him! Hold firm and take heart! Hope in the Lord!” 

Our liturgy selects only 7 verses from the whole 14 verses of the psalm. These do cover the essentials while searching for the hidden face of the Lord in a difficult time, but a most interesting idea can be missed: that of savouring the beauty of God. Unfortunately, our translation gives “sweetness” while most other translations give “beauty”. It’s refreshing to seek a God who is beautiful!

In the weekend liturgy, our psalm follows the reading from Acts about the early disciples, gathered with the Mother of Jesus, back in the upper room after Jesus has ascended and left them. They need to continue to “savour his beauty” and continue to “seek his face” in his apparent absence. It reaches forward to the Gospel, where the incarnate face of God, Jesus, continues in heaven to pray in support of the little band of his followers in that upper room and beyond it to us today, as we too seek God’s beautiful face revealed in his Word, sacrament, needy neighbour and in sacred ministers like readers and cantors. Yes! That’s us as we sing, “The Lord is MY light, the Lord is MY help! So hold firm and take heart!”

Audio commentary of Ps 26 for Easter 7A by Dr Noel Donnelly