Psalm 16 is used more than 20 times in Masses throughout the year. It is especially important in the Easter season Masses and in the breviary.
The psalmist begs God to keep him safe. He is confident that God will care for him. He knows that the God he honors is the only true God. The gods worshiped by other nations are false gods and cannot bring anything good to their clients. In fact, they only bring sorrow upon sorrow.
The one true God has blessed the psalmist in the land God has given him. It will provide for his own needs as well as the needs of his family and descendants. This gift assures the psalmist of God’s care. It makes him realize that the most important gift is God himself. He says. “God is my allotted portion and my cup.”
Day and night God is in the psalmist’s mind and heart. God is his joy and security. He says that God will not abandon him to Sheol or let him see the pit. In the Old Testament context, this means that he will not fear an untimely death.
St. Peter refers to this psalm in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:25-28. The word “pit,” however, is translated “corruption” in the Old Testament Greek.) Thus, Peter applies the psalm to Jesus. David, the presumed author of the psalm, died and did suffer corruption. Jesus escaped corruption and was raised to a glorious new life
It is easy to see why this became a resurrection psalm and is used frequently at Easter time in the liturgy. On Holy Saturday it is used in the Office of Readings with the antiphon “My body shall rest in hope,” obviously referring to Christ in the tomb.
Featured image: Mele Avery