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Pondering with God's Word

Psalm 68 – Then and Now


The Responsorial Psalm for the Eucharistic Liturgy for Aug. 28 is taken from Psalm 68:4-11. There are different ways to pray a Psalm. One can pray it as an Israelite worshipper of Yahweh in the Jerusalem Temple, or, as a Christian, one can direct the psalm prayer to Christ who is both human and divine.

In its ancient setting Psalm 64 was probably used as a thanksgiving for a bounteous harvest. Verses 4-5 and 10-11 proclaim faith in Yahweh as opposed to other gods of the nations around Israel. In verse 5, “Sing to God, chant praise to his name, whose name is the Lord.” “Lord” is the translation of Yahweh. In verse 5, our liturgy omits the words “exalt the rider of the clouds.” This title was used by the ancient Canaanites for their god, Baal, who brings rain as he “rides the clouds” from the sea. However, Psalm 68 says it is not Baal but Yahweh who brings rain. “A bountiful rain you showered down, O God.” This rain watered the land and fed the flock, both animals and people. Finally, verses 6-7 offer thanks for God’s care for the orphan and the widow, references to the covenant obligations of the people.

If we Christians pray this psalm to Christ, we can recall the words of St. Paul, that we are “the body of Christ,” the presence of Christ in the world today. How is it that Christ, today, takes care of the poor and provides rain, weather conditions, for our crops and animals, our food? Just as the Israelites were called upon to fulfill covenant obligations to take care of the poor, we Christians, as the presence of Christ in our world, are called upon to care for the less fortunate. We can use this psalm to remind ourselves of this obligation and to thank Christ for those many among us who work for peace and social justice. 

But how do we, the “body of Christ,” bring the rain? These psalm verses also speak to the very experiences we find ourselves in with the negative weather conditions here at home and all over the world due to climate change. What are our prayers and actions regarding this experience?  Have we read “Laudato Si’, mi’ signore,” “Praise be to you, my Lord,” Pope Francis’ encyclical on the Care of Creation?”  What actions do we take in our daily lives to “care for creation?” Do we thank Jesus for those who speak and work against climate change?