Scripture for the Sick or Dying: Psalm 80

The CDWDS has approved a “Mass in Time of Pandemic.” Possible readings include a Mass “in any need.” (Cf. Lectionary for Mass, vol. IV, nos. 938-942) There are also special readings, and here is one of two possible Psalms.

The 80th isn’t in the existing Lectionary for the care for people who are sick and dying. But for a time of serious concern, it is now. It is classified as a communal lament. We certainly are in a time of lament in the world community.

The natural antiphon of the psalm is a petition to God for salvation:

R. (4b)  Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.

Two stanzas (2ac+3b and 5-7) are interspersed:

O shepherd of Israel, hearken.
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power.  R.

O Lord of hosts, how long will you burn with anger
while your people pray?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
and given them tears to drink in ample measure.
You have left us to be fought over by our neighbors,
and our enemies mock us.  R.

The international situation in the time of the Psalmist is the exploitation and conquest of a small nation by powerful neighbors, namely, Egypt and Babylon. It is somewhat the reverse today, isn’t it? A seemingly teeny virus has brought the big humans low. Two of the three biggest world superpowers have been shaken to their economic and political roots. Well, we guess that is so for China.

For people of faith, some of us feel mocked, abused, and beset by decisions outside of our circle, and it seems, beyond our power. The ancient Israelites saw the hand of God’s judgment in their trials. Some Christians still see it this way today.

The antiphon is a timely reminder. It does not plead with the Lord. It is almost a demand. In the style of a lament, the Psalmist insists on relief. The thing about a lament, there is always a hope offered at the end. Without fail. The final verses of the psalm (not part of the Mass, alas) express a confidence which we can share:

May your hand be with the man on your right,
with the son of man whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will not withdraw from you;
revive us, and we will call on your name.
Lord God of hosts, restore us;
light up your face and we shall be saved. (18-20)

The last verse is the repeated antiphon–in the psalm setting as well as in the psalm as a whole. The Psalmist looks to a future king in the Davidic royal line. Christians would interpret this as the Messiah, Jesus.

What is the basis of our hope? Not what, but who.

For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Pastoral Care of the Sick, Scripture. Bookmark the permalink.

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