31st Sun. Ordinary Time Year A
Today’s responsorial psalm, Ps. 131, has always fascinated and challenged me. Since it is short I will quote it here in full:
O Lord, my heart is not proud,
nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
nor with things too sublime for me.
Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted
my soul like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
so is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord,
both now and forever.
First of all, I really cannot say with the unqualified assurance of the psalmist that my heart is not proud, nor are my eyes haughty, but I can say that I am moving toward this blessed state as I seek to repent of any and all attitudes of pride I find within me. The next lines, however, gave me even more pause and greater puzzlement. How can I possibly say declare that I do not busy myself with great and sublime things when I spend most of my day occupied with the greatest and most sublime Thing, God Himself, the Supreme Being? Perhaps the answer lies in contrasting the “busyness” of these lines with the stillness and quiet of the following verse. We can be busy with God in the same way that a scientist is with the universe. An astronomer can observe the stars and planets and galaxies with his instruments, measuring, calculating, exploring. All this is good. But he does well if at times he allows himself to be overwhelmed with the awesome immensity and beauty of what he studies. Otherwise, he risks losing an important perspective. In the same way, the theologian, both professional and amateur, can study God, making Him an object of observation, a thing to be understood and therefore controlled. But when we truly and honestly deal with God, we cannot help but be overcome by the shear infinitude of His being and the magnitude of His love. If we do not find this to be so, then I dare say we are not in the presence of the Almighty Creator, the Crucified and Risen Redeemer, the Celestial Lover, but rather we are manipulating some little tin god of our own making. When we are in a true relationship with God we must humble ourselves, yet we are not humiliated. Like a weaned child that no longer grasps for its mother’s breast we become completely still and lifted in the arms of Love. We find in God a deeply affirming peace that quiets all our restless seeking for self satisfaction. Here then is fulfilled the saying at the end of today’s Gospel: whoever humbles himself will be exalted.