“I trust in you, O LORD . . . My times are in your hand.”
Psalm 31 is a psalm of lament, and we see the depth of that lamentation in verses 9-16. While the psalmist cries out about wasting away in grief and sorrow, there is also a basic affirmation: “I trust in you, O LORD . . . My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant . . . ” In the lament of Psalm 31, we see a foreshadowing of Jesus in his last week.
We tend to shy away from the notion of lament, possibly because this depth of grief seems too intimate for our time. We reserve lament for times of grief, especially death.
I come from the Armenian Orthodox tradition. The Armenian Gregory of Narek (Grigor Narekatsi) wrote a book of ninety-five prayers in the year 1001 that has been actively circulated since then. Armenians know his work as The Lamentations of Narek. (Thomas Samuelian’s translation is the best version in English, titled Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart.) In many of these prayers, Gregory writes of his sense of brokenness and how he feels that he does not measure up to his calling as a disciple of Christ. For example, here he laments and pleads: “Accept with sweetness, almighty Lord, my bitter prayers. Look with pity upon my mournful face. Dispel, all-bestowing God, my shameful sadness” (Prayer 12, C). Yet always in the prayers of Narekatsi is the appeal to the mercy of God, leading to his title as “The Doctor of Mercy,” bestowed by Pope Francis who declared Gregory a Doctor of the Church.
An honest assessment of our lives may well point us to a renewed acquaintance with lament—not to live with a deep sense of sorrow but to live with an awareness of our brokenness and our need for mercy.
God, we are grateful that your love includes patience, gentleness, salvation, and glory for all people and for all time. Amen.
This week’s readings prepare us for Palm Sunday, a joyous event. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of kingship in ancient Israel. The people greet him with loud acclamations. He is coming in the name of the Lord! Standing along the road leading into Jerusalem, how could anyone imagine what would happen that following week? Wasn’t Jesus finally going to manifest the fullness of God’s power, take his place on the throne of David, and overthrow the Romans? No, because that was not his mission. He came not to build an earthly kingdom but to lay aside his rights. He came to be glorified by being humiliated . . . for us. He came to suffer and die . . . for us.
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does your faith community reflect the servant in this reading?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How are you rejoicing in this day that the Lord has made? How are you blessing “the one who comes in the name of the Lord”?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. How does this hymn of the early Christian community speak to you as you prepare for Holy Week?
Read Mark 11:1-11, 15-18. Spend some time imagining the scene of Jesus entering Jerusalem as described in the reading. Where are you in the scene? What do you see? What do you hear around you? What do you feel as you watch this event?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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