Scripture for the Sick or Dying: Psalm 25

For being an acrostic psalm (each line begins with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in order), the 25th holds up very well compared to the occasional disjointedness in other compositions.

In the Lectionary for the care of people who are sick and dying, the alphabetical consideration is lost, as the framers of the rite favored a selection of verses. Plus, we rarely pray these in the original language.

It seems fitting that we look at this Scripture in Advent, as this psalm is one of the two common psalms for the season. I don’t know that it need be a go-to for December visits to ill persons, but the text does suggest the psalmist is searching for meaning. And how often is our response to serious illness a question of God: why me and what does it mean?

Verse 1 provides the most common antiphon:

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

Perhaps the stanzas of this could be arranged as follows, starting with an expression of patience on the part of the person praying:

Make known to me your ways, LORD;
teach me your paths.
Guide me by your fidelity and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
for you I wait all the day long.

The psalmist pokes at God’s memory. Certainly, the believer–Jew, Christian, or Muslim is well aware God has not forgotten. But sometimes we might need to express that concern with words:

Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD,
for they are ages old.
Remember no more the sins of my youth;
remember me according to your mercy,
because of your goodness, LORD.

After that modest guilt trip on the Almighty, the psalmist offers words of praise:

Good and upright is the LORD,
therefore he shows sinners the way,
He guides the humble in righteousness,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth
toward those who honor his covenant and decrees.

Verse 14 is actually included in today’s Advent Lectionary (December 23):

The counsel of the LORD belongs to those who fear him;
and his covenant instructs them.
My eyes are ever upon the LORD,
who frees my feet from the snare.
Look upon me, have pity on me,
for I am alone and afflicted.

This suggests the key lyrics for the prayer of the sick (see also Psalm 6 or 32 or Isaiah 38). The psalmist drives to the point, and offers the confident hope that God will save. It’s a commonality with the season and the condition of illness: the sick person knows she or he is in need of assistance. Often, a power beyond an impairment. Is that not the Advent hope, that a savior has been promised and will deliver?

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 Minnesota, 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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