Ps 70 Commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly
Psalm 70 Commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly
Sometimes we get a déjà vu when we read over our responsorial psalm. With Psalm 70, that is not surprising because our first three stanzas are almost identical with those of Psalm 30 !
Although we sing only the first 6 verses of Psalm 70 in our liturgy, verses 9 and 18 of the full psalm tell us that the original singer is an elderly person, someone who has “grown old and grey-headed”, to use the psalmist’s words there. Verse 22 tells us that the writer is in the choir of professional singers in the Temple and is praising God “with harp and song”. Now in his mature years the singer’s faith is challenged in verse 10 by a campaign of people jeering at his faith. In response, the singer calmly recalls how from earliest times God has supported him. The Hebrew of verse 7 may be translated as “from the time when You cut my umbilical cord”, that is, from his first appearance in the world God was present around him. So he turns to that familiar group of three verses which are also in Psalm 30, and he prays for ongoing support. He uses the stanzas we sing this weekend. He makes four imperative petitions: “rescue me; deliver me; incline Your ear; save me!” When his faith is challenged, he responds with his feet: he stands up publicly before the audience and leads them in prayerful worship.
Our psalm, as usual, links backwards to the first reading and forwards to the Gospel. Like our psalmist, Jeremiah from his earliest moments has been helped and strengthened by God for his challenging mission. Reaching forwards, our psalm links also with the public announcement of Jesus’ mission statemen where he steps forward as a public reader of scripture and challenges an enraged audience in the Nazareth synagogue.
The public witness that we as cantors or readers now give to our faith may not always arise from our sometimes-doubting heads, but often it needs to be in our feet as we deliberately step up to read or sing from the lectern! We know the hymn, “God be in my Head and in my understanding!” Perhaps we could sometimes mentally add a verse or two: “God be in my feet and in my faithful stepping! God be in my voice and in my singing!” Just a thought …