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Archive for November 5th, 2017


Psalm 120Prayer for a Returned Exile

Soldiers marshaling people for a march

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Today we consider this prayer by those who returned from captivity and exile to find their holy Temple and city in ruins. Today we also consider our own response to the challenge of rebuilding, and the gift of transformation. Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2009.

There is a cycle of Psalms that pilgrims began to sing when they made their journey to Jerusalem each spring.  This is the first of the fifteen Songs of AscentPilgrims to this day still refer to this journey as an ascent – a going up – to Jerusalem.  The holy city was God’s dwelling place, the new Sinai, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept in the temple’s Holy of Holies guarded by huge gold statues of cherubim – fierce and loyal winged celestial creatures.

Not only is this psalm an anthem of thanksgiving for having been rescued, it is also a petition for protection against the bands of attackers who lurked along the Jerusalem route to waylay and rob the innocent.  The victim who is helped in the Good Samaritan parable is on the road to Jerusalem.  The priest and the Levite pass by the wounded man and do not help him.  If they are on their way up to Jerusalem, they will not want to break their fast or become impure in any way before entering the Temple.  They leave the man in the ditch to be helped by the Samaritan.  Joseph and Mary leave the protection of their clan to travel alone back to Jerusalem in search of the lost child Jesus.  He is found with the elders of the temple discussing scripture.

Several years ago we reflected on this prayer during one of our Noontimes, and we spent some time with the following citation from the St Joseph Edition of Psalms.  “Human beings are born to be pilgrims in search of the Absolute, on a journey to God.  We advance by way of stages, from the difficulties of life to the certainties of hope, from the dispersion of cares to the joyous encounter with God, from daily diversions to inner recollection”. 

When we make our Easter journey toward Pentecost, we feel a certain vulnerability.  We have experienced friendship with Christ, and we have witnessed his death.  He has returned and we are joyful; yet he speaks of going away to send us the Advocate.  He reminds us that his love can never leave us.  We hear his words and experience this love; yet we feel that there is something more . . . there is something missing.  We lack an ingredient to an important lesson.

We have returned from exile with Christ’s resurrection.  His act of humility and love has set us free.  Let us thank him for our deliverance.  Let us ask him to protect us against the bands of marauders that assault our days and nights as we journey home.  In joy, we make our Prayer of Ascent.

From the MAGNIFICAT evening prayer last night, we pray: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who live lives of loveless loneliness: may we embrace them in our communities of love.  Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who have mistaken power and possession for love: may they discover the truth through the witness of Christian believers: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who have died: may they live forever in the kingdom of God’s love: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

Amen.

THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. Print.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 17.5 (2009). Print.  

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