The psalmist comes to worship in the temple. He asks what it takes to be worthy to honor God on the holy mountain where the temple stands. (“Tent” alludes to the place where Moses consulted God in the desert. “Mountain” is the place where ancients believed that God revealed his presence in a special way.)
A priest answers the question. To be worthy, one must “walk without blame.” Walking without blame suggests a path clear of all obstacles, a life that rejoices to live up to God’s covenant.
The psalm describes people who live such a life. Positively they do what is “right” and “speak the truth.” They find their friends among those who “fear the Lord,” that is, those who have a deep reverence for God.. They live up to their word, no matter what the cost. Negatively, they do not ruin anyone’s reputation by slander. They do no harm to others. They don’t consort with wicked people. They don’t charge interest when they lend (thus not taking advantage of the poor) and they do not take bribes.
This psalm could be used as a kind of examination of conscience.
It is also worth pointing out that other psalms are prayed by sinners. They come to the temple to beg God’s mercy. Such penitential psalms balance those that are prayed by saints.
It’s a good reminder of how Jesus loved both saints and sinners. He even showed special concern for sinners. He ate with them and invited them to repentance. And Jesus sends the church to announce God’s mercy to sinners. The sacraments of baptism , reconciliation and the anointing of the sick are especially meant to help people escape sin and be reconciled to God. At every celebration of the Eucharist we recall and repent of our sins. We also receive the help we need to become saints. As it is often said, saints are simply repentant sinners.
Photo: Mele Avery