Pope´s Address at General Audience

«A Call to Faith in a God Who Is Not Indifferent»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 8, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address at today´s general audience.

* * *

1. Psalm 32 [33], which has 22 verses, the same number as the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, is a hymn of praise to the Lord of the universe and history. A quiver of joy pervades it from the very first lines: «Rejoice, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting. Give thanks to the Lord on the harp; on the ten-stringed lyre offer praise. Sing to God a new song; skillfully play with joyful chant» (verses 1-3). This acclamation («tern´ah»), then, is accompanied by music and is the expression of an interior voice of faith and hope, of joy and trust. The hymn is «new,» not only because it renews the certainty of the divine presence within creation and human events, but also because it anticipates the perfect praise that will be intoned on the final day of salvation, when the Kingdom of God will have attained its glorious realization.

Indeed, St. Basil has in mind the final fulfillment in Christ, when he explains this passage thus: «In general ´new´ means something unusual or novel. If you were to think of the incarnation of the Lord in a wonderful way, beyond all imagining, you would have to sing a new and unheard of song. And if you review mentally the regeneration and renewal of all humanity, surrendered of old to sin, and announce the mysteries of the resurrection, you would sing a new and unusual canticle» («Homily on Psalm 32:2,» PG 29, 327B). In a word, according to St. Basil, the psalmist´s invitation that says: «Sing to God a new song,» means, for believers in Christ: Do not honor God according to the ancient custom of the «letter,» but in the newness of the «spirit.» Indeed, whoever does not understand the Law externally, but recognizes the «spirit» in it, such a one sings a «new song» (Ibid.)

2. In the central part, the hymn is articulated in three parts that become a trilogy of praise. In the first (verses 6-9), the creative word of God is celebrated. The wonderful architecture of the universe, like a cosmic temple, did not arise or grow from a struggle among gods, as some cosmogonies of the ancient Near East suggested, but only from the basis of the effective divine word. Just as the first page of Genesis (Chapter 1) teaches: «God said. And it was so.» In fact, the psalmist repeats: «For he spoke, and it came to be, commanded, and it stood in place» (verse 9).

The man of prayer gives special importance to control of the sea waters, as in the Bible they are the sign of chaos and evil. Despite its limits, the world is preserved in being by the Creator who, as mentioned in the Book of Job, commands the sea to halt at the seashore. «Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed» (Job 38:11).

3. The Lord is also the sovereign of human history, as stated in the second part of Psalm 32 [33], in verses 10-15. The plans of terrestrial powers are opposed, with a vigorous antithesis, to the wonderful design that God has traced in history. Human programs, planned as alternatives, introduce injustice, evil, violence, rising against the divine plan of justice and salvation. And, despite transitory and apparent successes, they are reduced to simple machinations, destined to dissolution and failure. It is succinctly stated, in the biblical Book of Proverbs: «Many are the plans in a man´s heart, but it is the direction of the Lord that endures» (Proverbs 19:21). Similarly, the Psalmist reminds us that from heaven, his transcendent dwelling, God follows all the ways of humanity, even the mad and absurd, and intuits all the secrets of the human heart.

«Wherever you go, whatever you do, whether in darkness, or in the light of day, God´s eye sees you,» St. Basil comments («Homily on Psalm 32,» 8 PG, 29, 343A). Happy the people who, accepting the divine revelation, observe its instructions of life, following its paths in the road of history. Only one thing remains at the end: «But the plan of the Lord stands forever, wise designs through all generations» (verse 11).

4. The third and last part of the Psalm (verses 16-22), takes up again, from two new angles, the topic of the unique lordship of God over human affairs. On one hand, he invites the powerful not to be deluded by the military force of armies and cavalry. Then he invites the faithful, often oppressed, starving, and on the brink of death, to hope in the Lord who will not let them fall into the abyss of destruction. In this way, the «catechetical» function of this Psalm is also revealed. It is transformed into a call to faith in a God who is not indifferent to the arrogance of the powerful and who is close to the weakness of humanity, raising it and sustaining it if it entrusts itself to him, if it raises its prayer and praise to him.

The humility of those who serve God — St. Basil continues to explain — shows that they hope for his mercy. Indeed, whoever does not trust his own great enterprises, or expect to be justified by his own works, sees in God´s mercy his only hope for salvation («Homily on Psalm 32,» 10 PG 29,347A).

5. The Psalm ends with an antiphon that has become part of the well-known Te Deum hymn: «May your kindness, Lord, be upon us; we have put our hope in you» (verse 22). Divine grace and human hope meet and embrace. So, God´s loving faithfulness (according to the value of the original Hebrew word used here, hésed), envelops us like a mantle, warms and protects us, offering serenity and giving a sure foundation to our faith and hope.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation