Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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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, 1-2.13-14.17-18

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

13 As a father has compassion for his children,
  so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

14 For he knows how we were made;
  he remembers that we are dust.

17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
  on those who fear him,
  and his righteousness to children’s children,

18 to those who keep his covenant
  and remember to do his commandments.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

With today’s liturgy we chant the second part of psalm 103. Already from the start of the psalm the psalmist invites us to thank the Lord: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits” (v. 1-2). The soul turns in directly to the believer: [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 believer must not forget so much love. Unfortunately, forgetfulness of God’s love is a common experience. We are so concentrated on ourselves that we do not remember the Lord’s love which has saved us from ruin. Thank goodness the Lord behaves differently. He forgets our guilt and does not cease loving us. We are quick to anger and slow to love and forgive. Instead, the Lord is like a father who has compassion for his children: “As a father has compassion for his children so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him” (v. 13). The psalmist—from biblical wisdom—reminds us that the Lord knows deeply what we are made of: “he remembers that we are dust.” (v. 14) And that “As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (v. 15-16). But this awareness is not to worry us. Just the opposite. It is exactly our weakness that is the reason for God’s tenderness toward us. Yes, God chose the dust that we are to give us love and forgiveness, just as he chose the dust to form Adam at the beginning of creation and exhale life into him. That God “remembers we are dust” is the reason he stays near us “for ever and ever.” The psalmist reiterates: “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting … and his righteousness to children’s children.” A passage from the book of Sirach helps us understand the meaning of this psalm more deeply: “What are human beings, and of what use are they? What is good in them, and what is evil? The number of the days in this life is great if they reach one hundred years. Like a drop of water from the sea and a grain of sand, so are a few years among the days of eternity. That is why the Lord is patient with them and pours out his mercy upon them. He sees and recognizes that their end is miserable; therefore he grants them forgiveness all the more. The compassion of human beings is for their neighbours, but the compassion of the Lord is for every living thing” (18:7-13).