If there is an “unsung” psalm in the Bible, it might be the 27th. It is one of the common psalms for ordinary time. It appears in the Sunday Lectionary three times in the three-year cycle–once in Easter, once in Lent, and once in Ordinary Time. If you go to daily Mass, you might sing it nine times in two years. It is an option for funerals. And one engaged couple I worked with years ago wanted it to follow the first reading at their wedding. Psalm 27 is a true “utility” player in the liturgy.
No surprise that it is an official option for the Rite of Penance. You’ll find it in the second appendix to the rite, used with Ephesians 1:3-7 and the Gospel account of the lost son in Luke 15. “Help” substitutes for “salvation” as we usually hear the antiphon:
The Lord is my light and my help.
The selection of verses should echo well for moderately active or attentive Catholics. Yet again, we see the counsel Ne timeas, or don’t be afraid. Pope Francis would approve, no doubt.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
The psalmist reports on a certain singlemindedness where God is concerned.
One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’s house
all the days of my life,
To gaze on the LORD’s beauty,
to visit his temple.
The theme of our Jubilee surfaces, and the psalmist also reports on something of an inner colloquy. When urged by the Lord through our thoughts and imagination, do we respond? It is so easy to dismiss that voice, even as we impore God to hear our own.
Hear my voice, LORD, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me.
“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”;
your face, LORD, do I seek!
Do not hide your face from me;
do not repel your servant in anger.
You are my salvation; do not cast me off;
do not forsake me, God my savior!
Even if my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will take me in.
I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD, take courage;
be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!
This final thought is also presented in the Church’s funeral liturgy. “I believe” is an act of the human will. But still, that is not enough. In waiting for God, we hope faith will take root. Faith is a divine gift, not something we enact on our own. Likewise, we bring the same mindset to Penance. We confess sins, but the action of doing so does not save, forgive, or involve a bargain or deral with God. Grace is something we wait for. Grace is something imparted to the single-minded. Grace is especially for those unafraid.