Aug. 22 General Audience Address

Malice of the Sinner vs. Goodness of the Lord

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 26, 2001 ( Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address at last Wednesday´s general audience. (Psalm 35 is numbered as Psalm 36 in some Bibles.)

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Psalm 35
Malice of the Sinner, Goodness of the Lord
Lauds, Wednesday First Week

1. There are two fundamental attitudes that every man can adopt every time that a new day of work and human relations begins: either to choose good or give way to evil. Psalm 35, which we have just heard, specifically presents these two antithetical views. On one hand is the one who plots iniquity on the «bed» he is about to rise from; on the other, instead, is the one who seeks the light of God, «fountain of life» (see verse 10). The abyss of the malice of the wicked is opposed by the abyss of the goodness of God, a living fountain that quenches and a light that illuminates the faithful.

There are, therefore, two types of men described in the prayer of the Psalm just recited, which the Liturgy of the Hours proposes for Lauds on Wednesday of the First Week.

2. The first picture presented by the Psalmist is that of the sinner (see verses 2-5). As the Hebrew original states, «transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart» (verse 2). The expression is forceful. It makes one think that a satanic word, as opposed to a divine word, resounds in the heart and speech of the wicked.

Evil seems to be innate to him, to the point that it flows out in words and acts (see verses 3-4). He spends his days choosing «ways that are not good» from the early morning, while he is still «on his bed» (verse 5), until the evening, when he is about to fall asleep. This constant choice of the sinner stems from an option that involves his whole life and generates death.

3. However, the Psalmist tends completely toward the other portrait, in which he wishes to be reflected: that of the man who seeks the face of God (see verses 6-13). He raises a true and appropriate song to divine love (see verses 6-11), which he follows in the end, with a supplicatory invocation to be freed from the fascination of the darkness of evil and enveloped forever in the light of grace.

A true and proper litany of terms is articulated in this song, which celebrates the features of the God of love: grace, faithfulness, justice, judgment, salvation, protective shadow, abundance, delight, life, light. In particular, four of these divine traits should be underlined, which are expressed in Hebrew words that have a more intense value than can be appreciated in modern language translations.

4. First of all, there is the term «hésed,» «grace,» that is at once faithfulness, love, loyalty, tenderness. It is one of the fundamental terms to exalt the covenant between the Lord and his people. And it is significant that it occurs 127 times in the Psalter, more than half of all the times in which this word is repeated in the rest of the Old Testament. Then there is «´emunáh,» which stems from the same root as Amen, the word of faith, meaning stability, security, unconditional faithfulness. It is followed by «sedaqáh,» justice, which above all has a salvific meaning: it is the holy and provident attitude of God who, through his intervention in history, frees his faithful from evil and injustice. Finally, there is «mishpát,» judgment, with which God governs his creatures, bending over the poor and the oppressed and bringing down the arrogant and overbearing.

Four theological words that the man of prayer repeats in his confession of faith, while he goes on the roads of the world, certain of having a loving, faithful, just and saving God by his side.

5. To the various titles with which he exalts God, the Psalmist adds two thought-provoking images. On one hand, the abundance of food: This makes one think first of the sacred banquet, which was celebrated in the Temple of Zion with the flesh of the sacrificial victims. There is also the fountain and torrent, whose waters not only slake the parched throat, but also the soul (see verses 9-10; Psalm 41:2-3; 62:2-6). The Lord satisfies and satiates the man of prayer, and makes him share in his full and immortal life.

The other picture gives a symbol of light: «in thy light do we see light» (verse 10). It is a luminosity that radiates almost as a «cascade» and is a sign of the revelation of God to his faithful. This is what happened to Moses on Sinai (see Exodus 34:29-30) and this happens to the Christian to the degree that, with an unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, he is transformed into that very same image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

In the language of the Psalms, «to see the light of the face of God» means, specifically, to encounter the Lord in time, whenever the liturgical prayer is celebrated and the divine word is heard. The Christian also has this experience when he celebrates the Lauds of the Lord at the dawn of the day, before going on the ways of daily life that are not always straightforward.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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