While praying Morning Prayer yesterday (Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter), I was struck by the words of David in Psalm 77,
“Will the Lord reject us for ever?
Will he show us his favor no more?
Has his love vanished for ever?
Has his promise come to an end?
Does God forget his mercy
or in anger withhold his compassion?”
As I was praying these words, I noticed how closely I identified with them – much more than I usually do when praying this Psalm and others like it. Considering our present circumstances, I suspect that many have asked these or similar questions.
The truth is that these are difficult days. As Catholics, we are used to having recourse to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass along with the sacraments in times of trial. These, of course, are the surest means of drawing near to Christ and receiving the grace needed to shoulder the crosses that the Lord sends or permits in our lives. But at present, these are not available to most of us.
So where do we turn to strengthen our faith? Where can we find the grace to persevere?
David continues in the Psalm,
“I remember the deeds of the Lord,
I remember your wonders of old,
I muse on all your works
and ponder your mighty deeds.
Your ways O God, are holy.
What god is great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders.
You showed your power among the peoples.”
It seems that for David, we can always have recourse to God by calling to mind the deeds of the Lord throughout salvation history that have demonstrated God’s faithfulness. This in turn strengthens our faith and conviction that the ways of the Lord are holy and can be trusted.
For most of Lent, we did this nearly every day as we read through a good portion of the book of Exodus. We recalled how God heard the cry of his people in distress and delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh. We read of how, with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, the Lord almighty brought the Israelites through the waters of the Red Sea, fed them in the wilderness, quenched their thirst with water from a rock, and gave them commandments that would prepare them to receive the land promised to their fathers.
I am convinced that, in her holy wisdom, the Church provides us with these readings not only because they prefigure the Lord’s death and resurrection, but because they also serve to strengthen our faith and hope during our journey through the wilderness of Lent.
Of course, we are now in Easter – the season that commemorates the resurrection of our Lord and his decisive victory over death and Hades. If we are praying the Liturgy of the Hours, we will be reminded time and again that the Lord is risen from the tomb. The great Easter Alleluias will be placed upon our lips repeatedly, reminding us that our Lord has triumphed and that praise is fitting for loyal hearts. Provided that we devote ourselves to the prayers in some measure, there will be no escaping from the truth that this is the central mystery of our faith, and the reason for our hope.
In other words, the Liturgy itself provides what is needed to remember the deeds of the Lord and to muse on all His works. And this it does without ignoring or diminishing our questions, fears, and cries for help. The beautiful thing about the Psalms is that they both give voice to such longings and at the same time place them in the light of God’s faithfulness.
So, by praying the Liturgy of the Hours, may we have recourse to God by remembering the deeds of the Lord and his wonders of old. May we be reminded that the ways of God are holy and that no god is great as our God. Indeed, these are difficult days. But let us place our faith and hope in the risen Lord Jesus who will continue to work wonders and show His power among the peoples. Alleluia