The psalmist pleads for help from God. He is in distress. Apparently some influential men are causing him trouble. They do not live up to God’s standards. Their hearts are from God. They pursue empty pleasures. They use deceit and trickery to achieve their ends.
However, this man of prayer always remains confident. He tells the evildoers of his experience: “Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one;/ The LORD will hear when I call upon him.” He tells them to “tremble” before God. If only they realize what they are doing, they might realize how they are destroying themselves. Perhaps in the quiet of night their consciences may disturb them and they will turn their lives around.
Then the psalmist looks at the world at large. He hears people wishing for better times. This leads him to heartfelt prayer; “O LORD, let the light of your countenance shine upon them!” We are reminded of the beautiful blessing of Aaron in Nm 6:23-27. The shining light of God’s countenance is a Hebrew way of describing God’s smile. To experience God’s smile is to enjoy greater delight than being blessed with a rich harvest. It also enables a person to sleep with a clear conscience.
Appropriately the Church uses this psalm at night prayer: “I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once,/ for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” The same words make this a fitting psalm for the office of readings on Holy Saturday. There the antiphon highlights these words when it states: “In peace, I will lie down and sleep.” Jesus has taken his rest in the tomb.
Jesus could have used this psalm as he faced his enemies. They did not share his values or his dedication to God. They used lies and trickery to put him to death. Yet he maintained the joy of doing his Father’s will and prayed for forgiveness for those who put him to death. He could pray: “In peace, I will lied down and sleep.”
Coming into this world, the Son of God united himself to every human being. He has a special relationship with the Church, his Mystical Body. Therefore, we can identify ourselves with Jesus as he prays these words.
In our own country, Christians and especially Catholics are objects of ridicule. In other countries there is downright persecution. When we pray this psalm with Jesus, we can also remember our solidarity with those who are suffering persecution throughout the world. We can join with them in their suffering and pray with them.
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