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Archive for March 16th, 2015


Psalm 21: Assertiontell the storm

March 16, 2015

Life’s problems are too complicated for us to unravel, our enemies are too numerous to number and as an answer to our frequent question asking God what are to do, we might read, reflect on and pray Psalm 21. This song teaches us how we might assert ourselves in the following loving ways – – – we petition God with our woes and worries, we give thanks where we are able, we do what we can, we watch and wait on the Lord . . . and we sing words of praise to our God . . . Arise, Lord in your power!  We will sing and chant the praise of your might. 

In praying this psalm, we express our assurance that God will deliver us, and we remind ourselves that we are not in control of outcomes, nor do we know how any particular outcome will domino through our individual and communal lives.  What we do know when we pray this psalm is this: God will not abandon the faithful, and eventually – and under God’s direction – our enemies will come to understand how their actions have harmed others.  Fr. Paul Coutinho writes of this when he describes how anger can take hold of us in his book, HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD?

Anger is a ridiculous emotion.  Think about it.  The people I am angriest with are usually having a good time.  They seem to be blessed more and more by life.  I believe that God will punish them eventually, but their lives only get better.  I try to convince myself that that God is taking them high up in life only so that they may have a great fall.  And yet nothing like this ever happens.  The only one who suffers from my anger is me.  Additionally, I become more ridiculous in my anger.  I think about this person I am angry at when I wake up, and I feel his or her presence at the breakfast table.  I leave my breakfast unfinished and rush off to my workplace, and this person’s presence, my angry idea of him or her, follows me there.  I may inflict this angry feeling onto my co-workers or even my friends or clients.  If I decide to go to the movies that evening, I find that person I am angry with sitting right next to me, and half the movie is over and I have not been able to follow the story.  And then, of course, I bring this person to bed with me, and I toss and turn the whole night, feeling his or her presence in my own bed.  See how ridiculous anger is?  And maybe, just maybe, the thing I am most upset about in another is something I have not reconciled within myself.  (Coutinho 136-137)

Fr. Coutinho suggests that there is an alternative to anger.  We might pause, reflect and respond.  And our response can be one of love for the other.  Coutinho recommends that we love a person to goodness, or – as my mother always said – we kill them with kindness This kind of assertive behavior leaves the doors of communication open, offers an alternative to anger, and might also help preserve friendships or even develop new ones.  (Coutinho 138) This thinking reminds me of the advice my father always gave us – we do what we are supposed to do, and then we step back and let God worry about the other guy. 

coutinho Big is GodIn today’s Noontime, the psalmist puts human anger into God’s hands and decides to watch the outcome, imagining God exacting a just punishment.  Today we decide to go beyond this thinking to pray this psalm with a new assertion. An assertion that directs us to place the intricacies of our problems where they rightly belong . . . in God’s able hands.

Adapted from a reflection written on February 15, 2010.

As a Lenten activity, watch Paul Coutinho, S.J. for a positive, humorous, uplifting view about God and anger at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozevDJf9q9U

Fr. Paul Coutinho, HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD? Loyola Press, 2010.

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