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But Deliver Us From Evil and the Deliverance Psalms

By Reverend Thomas K. Murphy, O.F.M. The psalmists of old certainly learned in their own way to pray according to the last phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, since Laments or Deliverance Psalms are by far the largest category of Psalms, comprising over one third of the total.  Most of these are Laments of the individual person.  In these, the psalmists beg God to rise up and pity them, to save and rescue them, to redeem and deliver them from their afflictions.  Their special targets are the wicked – liars, slanderers, bloodthirsty men.  The community Laments direct attention to such unsavory groups as unjust judges, invading nations, and oppressive captors. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, knowing that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (cf. Mk 14:38b) warned the sleepy disciples to watch and pray.  By the next day, the distraught Apostles had witnessed or heard of the horrendous reality of sin visited upon their beloved Master.  All levels of society in Jerusalem were involved:  The Jewish High Priests, the Roman governor, the soldiers, the fickle populace.  Jesus Christ was executed as a common criminal just outside the wall of the city. The Apostles themselves had been put to the test of human honor, and they, too, had failed miserably.  At Gethsemane they fell asleep.  As Jesus was being arrested, they all deserted him and fled (cf. Mk [...]

2020-01-23T13:27:27-05:00January 22nd, 2020|

Forgive Us Our Trespasses . . . and the Penitential Psalms

By Reverend Thomas K. Murphy, O.F.M. Traditionally, seven Psalms are referred to as Penitential Psalms by the Fathers of the Church:  Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.  To these Psalms three others can be easily added:  Psalms 25, 50, and 106. The classic Penitential Psalm is Psalm 51, in which an opening plea for Divine Mercy is followed by a flood of self-accusations (cf. Ps 51:3-5).  Further pleadings for mercy and restoration of his faith are followed by a recognition that animal sacrifices are not effective; his sacrifice must be a a broken and contrite heart (cf. Ps 51;16,17). Sometimes the repentance process is more complicated.  Strong passions and unconsciously operating defense mechanisms can block faults from our consciousness.  Psalm 32 demonstrates how these factors can be overcome.  First we stew in the inevitable consequences of being out of harmony with the Will of God:  When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long . . . my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer (cf. Ps 32:3,4).  Then, taking full responsibility for breaking faith with God’s Covenant, we humbly own up to our failures:  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity;  I said “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”(cf. Ps 32:5a,b).  Next, we experience the return of peace:  then [...]

2020-01-23T13:27:48-05:00January 22nd, 2020|

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread and the Supplication Psalms

By Reverend Thomas K. Murphy, O.F.M. Mortimer Adler, educator, author of The Great Books of the Western World, devotee of St. Thomas Aquinas, and convert to the Catholic Faith, died in 2001 at the age of 98.  Adler, in his long academic career, confronted the intelligentsia of the secular universities with the charge that they were failing to consider the most important question of human existence – the existence of God.  Sadly, much of our culture continues to regard all truth as relative and bows to the ideal of multiculturalism, giving all cultures equal value.  Without some kind of human openness to absolute truth, God could not have revealed himself at all to the human race. Jesus bids us to address these simple words of petition, Give us this day our daily bread, to the Lord God Almighty; for in the last analysis, in the words of the Psalmist, the LORD is the upholder of my life (cf. Ps 54:4b).  Even though a whole gamut of people is involved in the production and distribution of food, from the viewpoint of faith, it is the Lord God who gives food to all flesh (cf. Ps 136:25a).  While Jesus mentions our daily bread, our most obvious daily physical need, he implies all our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as well.  God is the author of our total humanity: For you formed my inward [...]

2020-01-23T13:28:04-05:00January 22nd, 2020|

Thy Will Be Done and the Wisdom Psalms

By Reverend Thomas K. Murphy, O.F.M. We now come to the other part of the Covenant relationship:  and you shall be my people.  The sun, moon and stars, the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the vegetation and animals of the earth all act according to the Will of their Creator in a deterministic way.  The results are fascinating and delightful to behold.  Only we human beings, fashioned in the image and likeness of our Creator, are called to act according to the Will of our Creator through the exercise of our inner gifts of understanding and free will.  The results are usually fascinating, but as we see in our daily news accounts, not always delightful. When God called the community of Israel into a Covenant relationship (cf. Ex 19 and 20), he said, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (cf. Ex 19:6a).  By these simple words, he intended to fashion a holy nation that would bring God’s blessing to all peoples. Yet God understood their human weakness.  After their original dismal failure (cf. Ex 32), God agreed to take a second chance.  Moses said, I beg you, go in the midst of us, although it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin . . . (cf. Ex 34:9b).  Moses was anticipating the role of [...]

2020-01-23T13:28:45-05:00January 22nd, 2020|

Thy Kingdom Come and the Royal Psalms

By Reverend Thomas K. Murphy, O.F.M. Before moving to the next two phrases of the Lord’s Prayer, we must consider the Biblical notion of Covenant expressed by the words, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God (cf. Ez 36:28b, et. al.). The next phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, Thy Kingdom Come, is our humble acceptance of the statement, I will be your God.  We decide that the Lord will have full dominion over us.  Although we have long enjoyed a democratic form of civil government, the Lord has always maintained an absolute sovereignty over his creation:  I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other (cf. Is 42:8a). The Book of Psalms contains 23 Royal Psalms, all of which can be broken down into three sub-categories:  Hymns of Yahweh’s Kingship, Messianic Psalms, and Canticles of Zion.  Ancient history records that all the nations worshipped a multiplicity of their own gods.  In the face of this reality, the tiny Hebrew nation was praying six Hymns of Yahweh’s Kingship, each of which claimed that their God was the only God:  Declare his glory among the nations . . . for [the LORD] is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are idols (cf. Ps 96:3,4,5). In the Divine Office of the Catholic Church before Vatican Council [...]

2020-01-23T13:29:11-05:00January 22nd, 2020|

Hallowed Be Thy Name and the Hymns of Praise and Thanksgiving

By Reverend Thomas K. Murphy, O.F.M. The Book of Psalms contains two rich veins of material which can help us to celebrate the holiness of the Name of the Lord:  19 Hymns of Praise and 16 Thanksgiving Psalms.  The minimal distinction between the Hymns of Praise and the Thanksgiving Psalms has been expressed simply:  “The difference is that songs of thanksgiving shout for joy over the specific deed which God has just done for the one giving thanks, while the hymns of praise sing of the great deeds and majestic attributes of God in general (Sabourin, The Psalms, page 287). One day Jesus sent out his disciples ahead of him, and they returned rejoicing in their success.  Luke records:  In that same hour [Jesus] rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will (cf. Lk 10:21).  With these words Jesus hallowed the Name of his Father. The concept of joy lies at the heart of the faith of the People of God.  It is found in just under 45 of the Psalms and is found in all seven categories of the Psalms.  On another occasion one thousand years before Jesus, King David was installing the Ark of the Covenant into [...]

2020-01-23T13:29:27-05:00January 22nd, 2020|

Our Father Who Art in Heaven and the Confidence Psalm

By Reverend Thomas K. Murphy, O.F.M. Using the Lord’s Prayer as the principle model for prayer, we begin.  Our deepest human need is to find our true home, to know our deepest reality.  The first words of the Lord’s Prayer provide us with the key that unlocks the mystery of human identity.  To his followers’ request to help them to pray, the Divine Teacher declared:  Pray then like this: “Our Father who art in heaven” (cf. Mt 6:9a).  If God is truly our adopted father, by that very fact we are his adopted children.  By these few powerful words, Jesus is revealing his Father’s clear intention of adopting his Son’s disciples as his own beloved children, the People of God. This amazing rebirth, which takes place at our Baptism into the Blessed Trinity, demands total confidence in the infinite goodness and power of our new heavenly Father.  The humanity of Jesus showed this kind of trust.  In the hour of his deepest trial in the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday evening, as he faced what was to happen to him in the next several hours, Jesus’ own prayer was: “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this chalice from me; yet not what I will, but what you will” (cf. Mk 14:36). Twelve Psalms are considered Confidence Psalms.  Our confidence in God centers around two notions.  One, God [...]

2020-01-23T13:29:44-05:00January 22nd, 2020|

Pray Constantly . . . To Stand Secure In The Son Of Man (Jesus, cf. Luke 21:36)

By Reverend Thomas K. Murphy, O.F.M. Always among the first things for the People of God is a sincere prayer life.  The increasingly secular environment in which we live adversely affects the very idea of prayer.  Statistics for the Catholic Church in Michigan from the years 2000 to 2018 reveal about a 50% decline in infant baptisms and Catholic weddings.  While these statistics are bad, what they portend for the future is much worse. What can we do to counteract what has been happening?  One thing is that believers could strengthen their personal prayer lives. Divine revelation has given us two helpful models of prayer.  The Hebrew Bible holds before us the Book of Psalms.  Later revelation has left us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ own instruction on prayer. About fifty years ago Biblical scholars helped our understanding of the 150 Psalms by grouping them into a few different categories.  A good example can be found in the book, The Psalms, published in 1974 by Leopold Sabourin, S.J.  Categories of the Psalms include Confidence Psalms, Hymns of Praise and Thanksgiving, Royal Psalms, Wisdom Psalms, Penitential Psalms and Laments. Quite amazingly these several different Psalm categories can be easily matched with the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer and with the days of the week: Our Father . . .                        12 Confidence Psalms                      [...]

2020-01-23T13:30:01-05:00January 22nd, 2020|