Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Memorial of Saint Ambrose († 397), bishop of Milan. Pastor of his people, he remained strong in the face of the emperor’s arrogance.


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Psalm 103, 1-4.8-10

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
  and all that is within me,
  bless his holy name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
  and do not forget all his benefits—

3 who forgives all your iniquity,
  who heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
  who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
  slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9 He will not always accuse,
  nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
  nor repay us according to our iniquities.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Psalm 103 is composed of 22 verses, one for each of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Once more we are giving thanks to God from the first letter of the alphabet to the last, that is, with our entire lives. The liturgy allows us to hear only some verses of the psalm, those however that show the entire intention of praising the Lord. According to Jewish practice, this psalm is recited during the liturgy of Yom Kippur, the solemnity of Atonement, because it is considered a penitential psalm. In truth its words do not ask for forgiveness as much as they offer thanksgiving for the forgiveness that has already been obtained. The psalmist, who has lived the experience of forgiveness, invites everyone to take part in his thanksgiving. He speaks for the entire community, of the entire people of the Lord. God does for anyone what he did for the psalmist. The psalmist begins by urging himself (“all that is within me”) to bless the Lord and thank him for all “his benefits.” The Lord is truly great, because he “forgives all iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (v. 3-5). The features of the Lord’s love are described with five words: he forgives, heals, saves from the pit, crowns with steadfast love and mercy, satisfies with good until old age, and renews youth. It is because of all these things that the psalmist insists that we remember how much has been done for us: “do not forget all his benefits” (v. 2). Forgetfulness closes us in ourselves, while remembering God’s love induces us to keep his covenant and observe its precepts. Unfortunately it is easy to forget God as we are so caught up in ourselves. Fortunately for us, however, the Lord acts in exactly the opposite way. He forgets our sins, but does not stop loving us. We are quick to anger and slow to love and forgive. The Lord, on the other hand, is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (v. 8). He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does he repay us according to our guilt (v. 10) but like a father he has mercy for his children (v. 13). Further on the psalmist reminds us the reason for all that love: “For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust” (v. 14). It is our weakness that has pushed God to bend down to us and take care of us. How can we not be moved by so much love?