The Frustration of the Psalms

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Morning prayer, day-in, day-out 7/365 with rarely a break. And each round of the weeks, I experience something new in the Psalter, I hear something different as the words are spoken. I experience the prayers from where I am at that time, and so they have a different savor on the tongue, in the mind, in the heart.

And today there is a certain sense of joy and frustration.

from Psalter, Wednesday Week 1 of Ordinary Time

My God, the sons of men
find refuge in the shelter of your wings.

They feast on the riches of your house;
they drink from the stream of your delight.
In you is the source of life
and in your light we see light.

Keep on loving those who know you,
doing justice for upright hearts.
Let the foot of the proud not crush me
nor the hand of the wicked cast me out.

See how the evil-doers fall!
Flung down, they shall never arise.

While I relish the mercy of the Lord, I am often aghast at how He allows the wicked to rule and retain power. Ruthless, brutal, heartless, and cruel--the leadership of the world is so often the leadership of oppression. This is true from governments down to small businesses. Wanton small acts of cruelty from the company my wife worked for that ordered her to put two staples into the application of any person of color to the Lehman Brothers and other precipitators of our present crisis. Will they suffer from it? Not at all, and yet the suffering they have caused and will cause is incalculable.

Do the evil-doers fall? Rarely. How often are those who consistently vote for the extermination of small lives cast out of office--aren't they rather celebrated and extolled? How frequently do we witness any comeuppance?

And yet, I don't really want to see comeuppance either. Rather, I want to see the evil-doers fall--fall into the arms of God and cease to do evil. I want to see the sources of the world's evils dry up--avarice, pride, ambition, lust for power. And I know that they cannot go entirely because it is these drivers that given humanity some of its greatness some of its ability to cope with almost anything. Mysteriously, love is not a tremendous motivator to exploration of new worlds. It is the Dionysian that propels us--but even as tempered, it hurls us toward the stars, untrammeled it hurls us toward Hell itself.

And so the frustration of the psalms. I read the line and at first I want to see the evil-doer cast down--in fact, like the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado, I have a little list. It's not even alphabetical, but ranked. And sometimes I think, Lord, if you saw fit to smite these people, I would not be tremendously troubled. And then I go to confession.

Nevertheless, it would be good if I could see the evil-doers fall--fall into the arms of our Lord and cease to do evil. That, in fact, would be more satisfying than to see them destroyed. And yet, it happens so infrequently--or so it seems.

But I have to call to mind the words of St. Paul who reminds us that the sower of the seed is often not privileged to see the harvest of that same crop. So, I suppose by that logic, I do my part in the fall of evil-doers when I return goodness for malice, blessings for curses. "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." (Rom 12:20 quoting Proverbs 25:21-22).

Oh, but how satisfying it would be to see some of the evil of the world lessen, to see some surcease of the repletion of the foul.

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To a certain egree, the "frustrations" you mention can be somewhat relieved by praying a "new" set of Psalms from Office of Readings. After some 16 years of this, we find it a bit of a relief and refereshing to listen to them.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 19, 2008 7:20 AM.

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