This psalm, with the Penance refrain, “Lord, come and save us” is utilized for the third Sunday of Advent, cycle A. Most of these verses, 5-10, also appear four other times in the Sunday Lectionary over three years. A mid-December Sunday should perk one’s liturgical sensibility: John the Baptist and his call to repent for the Lord’s coming is near at hand.
It contains an echo, or perhaps a preformulation of the mission of Jesus as he proclaimed in Isaiah 61 in the synagogue. Why would we sing of Christ in the Psalm for a penance service? I would think it is about the inspiration of inviting people to imitate the Lord. That seems to be the intent of the rite. Rather than just attend to a laundry list (however good or complete that might be) the disciple of Jesus aspires to positive actions. How else can we be attractive to those who seek the Lord and have only us to watch?
At any rate, are these words familiar on anyone’s lips?
Blessed the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD, his God,
The maker of heaven and earth,
the seas and all that is in them.
The LORD keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free;
The LORD gives sight to the blind.
The LORD raises up those who were bowed down;
the LORD loves the just.
The LORD protects strangers,
The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever,
your God, Zion, through all generations! Alleluia!
This psalm is yoked with 1 John 1:5-9 and the Matthew 5:1-10 in Appendix II of the Rite, under the theme of “The Beatitudes.”
The first stanza is unique to the celebration of Reconciliation, and sets the tone: God is our hope; not merely human action in the world. The psalmist offers a beatitude: those who rely on and hope in God. The following verses remind us of God’s priorities, as Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount. Verse ten gives us a reprise of the theme of God’s omniscence and his eternal rule over the universe.
I would think an examination of conscience that includes sins of omission would dovetail nicely with this psalm and the suggested readings that go with it. And as for a time of year, Advent would be good, or during some stretch of Ordinary Time. Or any time when the preacher or confessor wishes to emphasize discipleship as a positive way of life for a Christian.