Bible and Bible Study: June 2004 Archives

The Psalms of Revenge

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Contra T.S.O.'s sly probe into my psyche I am not succumbing to ecumenicalism (actually I probably succumbed years ago) but rather to a penchant for reading books about spirituality based on the Bible written by persons named Wilfrid. And so, the next offering in this Wilfridfest (or is it the first--I know it isn't the first by this Wilfrid--oh well, give it a rest.)

from Nourished by the Word: Reading the Bible Contemplatively
Wilfrid Stinissen, O.Carm

When we let the "I" of the Psalms be widened to a universal "I," to the "I" of all human beings, we'll be less shocked over the psalms of revenge. When we learn to put ourselves in the situation of others, and also in the situation of those who are tortured and humiliated in their human worth, and when we talk to God on their behalf, it is not so strange that we protest vehemently. There is in every person a sound feeling for justice, an insight about the need to punish evil ones who have destroyed order in order that order be restored. The teachings about purgatory and hell are the Christian confirmation of this inherent insight, and show that the protest against injustice and opppression exists within God himself.

If I prayed for revenge for the violence and injustice to which I personally have been exposed, my prayer perhaps would not be entirely blameless. Jesus teaches us that we should not hit back when someone hits us. But he has not forbidden us to defend fellow human beings who have experienced violence; on the contrary, he wants us to be prepared to give our life for theirs. Since the "I" in the Pslams is not only mine personally but humanity's both my prayer and my prayer for retribution are acts of love: I protest against the evil to which my brother or sister have been subjected and desire that justice will be done. . . .

The universal range of the Psalms makes it also an ecumenical prayer book. No person can remain unmoved by it. In fact, it is used in all Christian denominations, and Christendom had it in common with Israel. Nothing points so plainly and so concretely to our Old Testament roots and our ties with our elder brothers and sisters from Israel than just this, that we pray to God with the same words. All Christians form, together with the Jews, one great choir whose common song in and of itself is, whether one is aware of it or not, a prayer for unity.

I can't comment on the accuracy of this passage, but it certainly "feels" right with respect to the tenor of these difficult psalms. Perhaps a new approach in praying them.

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But Morning Prayer has hit me time and again this morning.

Bless your persecutors; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same attitude toward all. Put away ambitious thoughts and assoicate with those who are lowly.

Treat all people the same; and treat them all well--as well as you treat yourself. When they rejoice, share in the rejoicing and do not lag behind brooding over how fortune has passed you by in favor of this less worthy one. When they weep, weep with them and and do not consider how this may have resulted from their own choices and actions. Weep because there will be a time, and there have been times, when you have been in the same place. And at the time it was not a blessing to have anyone tell you how you called this upon yourself.

And most of all, do not think of yourself. If you spend your time in the joys and sorrows of others, you will have no time to plot out things for yourself. You will have time for serving God alone. Become selfless. Or better yet, become God's self for others. Your life will be more blessed and abundant. You will find yourself in a world transformed and no different at all. The scales will fall away and you will see the Light as light and the darkness as darkness. All of this simply from loving with a human heart and with the help of grace.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Bible and Bible Study category from June 2004.

Bible and Bible Study: May 2004 is the previous archive.

Bible and Bible Study: July 2004 is the next archive.

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