Funeral Lectionary: Psalm 25:6+7bc, 17-18, 20-21

Psalm 25 is a frequent choice for funerals. It is familiar to many Catholics as one of the common psalms of the season of Advent. It also appears now and then during Lent and Ordinary time. It is an acrostic psalm, meaning that the verses each begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Sometimes these psalms can be rather frayed when it comes to a central theme. But Psalm 25 manages to hold together comparatively well as a coherent lament.

Two possible antiphons are given:

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

No one who waits for you, O Lord, will ever be put to shame.

More settings are available with antiphon 1, but I like the text of the latter one a bit more. Here are the verses:

Remember your mercy, Lord,
and the love you have shown from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth.
In your love remember me.

Relieve the anguish of my heart
and set me free from my distress.
See my affliction and my toil
and take all my sins away.

Preserve my life and rescue me.
Do not disappoint me, you are my refuge.
May innocence and uprightness protect me:
for my hope is in you, O Lord.

The ABC’s are lost on us anyway, and these selected verses could be interpreted as the hopeful prayer of the deceased. Or I suppose they could be the possible words of the mourners. Either way, the psalmist’s example is that a person comes before God, acknowledges sin, confesses inner upset, and petitions for life and safety. A believer could do much worse than this as an example of how to live. There’s an inner strength about the psalmist of the 25th. In the larger work, there are no excuses or protestations of innocence (as we often find in the Psalms). The psalmist here brings a certain maturity of faith to the song. God will see the believer’s honest affliction and not only forgive the sins, but take them away. Would that we, in our most fragile and vulnerable moments, especially when confronting death, approach God with this sort of confidence.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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