The pandemic has laid us all a bit low in so many ways. In my contacts with parishioners I have come across all kinds of emotions and states of mind and heart. Among the difficult ones are anxiety, fear, boredom, loneliness, depression, anger, frustration and apathy. By no means is everyone suffering from all or any of these: there are those showing great resilience and rising to the challenge. Just the same, there is a lot of trauma around and it’s going to take a while and a lot of compassion and understanding to heal it.
In that context, I’d like to point us to today’s responsorial psalm. It has been a favourite of mine since seminary. We only get a couple of verses from it today (it has 27!), but they are true gems. King David wrote the psalm after God had delivered him from his enemy King Saul. It shows the power of David’s love for God and the depth of his trust in him no matter what. The two verses we hear today are the opening one and then some verses from the very end of it.
It’s a sort of rallying cry, a song of victory and of an unconditional trust that, whatever other evils he will encounter in the future, David will conquer because of God.
The first verse, which was also the response today, begins with “I love you, Lord, my strength.” The sense of it is that not only do I love you now, Lord, but my love will endure into the future no matter what it brings. It is a commitment to respond to God’s faithful love with my own, no matter what. David’s words invite us to reaffirm and renew our personal love for the Lord in, through and beyond the pandemic. Our love for him is our response to his faithful love for us. We might not see or feel it, but we believe and will go on believing. Blessed are those who have not seen or felt, and yet believe.
Then David uses a number of images to express what his experience of God’s help has been like for him. Three of them talk of God’s strength: I love you, Lord, my strength, my mighty help, my stronghold. David experiences God’s strength as his own: my strength, my help, my stronghold. When we feel weak in any way, or short of energy or even will power, we can make David’s words our own: you, Lord, are my strength, my might help, my stronghold.
David then uses a few images to express his experience of God as his protector: my fortress, my shield and my stronghold. These are powerful images of being surrounded by God, of our being “enveloped inside” him and cared for by him. He defends and protects us from our foes, which doesn’t just mean from covid or the flu, but even more from the fear, anxiety, hopelessness and any other such thing brought on by the pandemic. It is good to use the spiritual imagination to place and position yourself inside God, your fortress, and to enjoy the sense of security and peace his enveloping arms bring.
No less than three times, David calls the Lord his rock, where he takes refuge. It could mean taking refuge in the cleft of the rock, or standing on it as an unshakeable foundation. Either way it means taking your stand on God, experiencing him as the solid basis of your life especially in uncertain times. Remember the rock of Peter’s faith, or the house built on the rock of obedience to God’s word. When you feel buffeted about by endlessly alarming news bulletins about Covid, or by a sense of confusion and uncertainty caused by it, stand on the rock, plant your feet firmly upon it and don’t budge.
Then David speaks of God as his saviour, his deliverer. He praises the Lord for saving him when he calls and for giving him great victories over his foes. And he says with utter confidence that God has done this as a show of his love for his anointed, his chosen one. The psalm today opens with David’s love for the Lord and ends with the Lord’s love for David. And the Lord loves you, too. You, too, are his anointed. Let your love for him, then, make you cry out to him to be rescued from whatever is getting you down or wearing you out. Throughout the pandemic keep that response on your lips and in your heart like a great rallying cry: “I love you, Lord, my strength!”