Papal Address on Psalm 66(67)

Life of Every Person Is a Praise of God, Says John Paul

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2002 ( Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address at today’s general audience, which he dedicated to reflect on Psalm 66(67).

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1. The voice of the ancient Psalmist has just been heard, who raised a joyful hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord. It is a brief and compelling text, which, however, opens a wide horizon, until it embraces all the peoples of the earth.

This universalistic opening perhaps reflects the prophetic spirit of the period following the Babylonian exile, when it was hoped that even foreigners would be led to God on his holy mountain to be filled with joy. Their sacrifices and burnt offerings were pleasing, because the temple of the Lord was to become a «house of prayer for all peoples» (Isaiah 56:7).

Also in our Psalm, 66[67], the universal choir of nations is invited to associate itself with the praise that Israel raises in the temple of Zion. In fact, this antiphon is repeated twice: «May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you» (verses 4,6).

2. Even those who do not belong to the community chosen by God receive a vocation from him: Indeed, they are called to know the «way» revealed to Israel. The «way» is the divine plan of salvation, the kingdom of light and peace, in whose realization the pagans are also involved, invited to hear the voice of Yahweh (see verse 3). The result of this obedient listening is the fear of the Lord in «the ends of the earth» (verse 8), an expression that does not evoke fear but rather adoring respect for the transcendent and glorious mystery of God.

3. At the beginning and conclusion of the Psalm, there is a reiterated desire for the divine blessing: «May God be gracious to us and bless us; may God’s face shine upon us. … God, our God, blesses us. May God bless us still» (verses 2,7-8).

It is easy to hear in these words the echo of the famous priestly blessing taught, in the name of God, by Moses to Aaron and to the descendants of the priestly tribe: «The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!» (Numbers 6:24-26).

Well, according to the Psalmist, this blessing over Israel will be like a seed of grace and salvation, which will be planted in the earth of the whole world and of history, ready to sprout and to become a luxuriant tree.

Our thoughts go to the promise made to Abraham by the Lord on the day of his election: «I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. … All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you» (Genesis 12:2-3).

4. In biblical tradition, one of the effects of divine blessing that is experienced is the gift of life, of fecundity and of fruitfulness.

In our Psalm there is an explicit reference to this concrete reality, precious for existence: «The earth has yielded its harvest» (verse 7). This fact has led scholars to relate the Psalm to the rite of thanksgiving for an abundant harvest, sign of divine favor and testimony for other peoples of the nearness of the Lord to Israel.

The same phrase attracted the attention of the Fathers of the Church, who passed from the agricultural horizon to the symbolic plane. Thus, Origen applied the verse to the Virgin Mary and to the Eucharist, namely, to Christ who comes from the flower of the Virgin and becomes fruit that can be eaten. In this perspective, «the earth is holy Mary, who comes from our earth, from our seed, from this mud, from this clay, of Adam.» This earth has given its fruit: What it lost in paradise, it has found again in the Son. «The earth has given its fruit: First it produced a flower … then, by this flower it became fruit, so that we could eat it, so that we could eat his flesh. Do you want to know what this fruit is? It is the Virgin of the Virgin, the Lord of the handmaid, God of man, Son of the Mother, fruit of the earth» («74 Omelie sul libro dei Salmi» [74 Homilies on the Book of the Psalms], Milan, 1993, p. 141).

5. We conclude with the words of St. Augustine in his commentary on the Psalm. He identifies the fruit that sprouted on earth with the news that graces are produced in men at the coming of Christ, the news of conversion and a fruit of praise to God.

In fact, «the earth was full of thorns,» he explains. But «the hand of him who uproots has come near, the voice of his majesty and of his mercy has come near; and the earth began to praise. Now the earth gives its fruit.» Of course, it would not give its fruit, «if it had not first been irrigated» by rain, «if the mercy of God had not come first from on high.» Now we see a mature fruit in the Church thanks to the preaching of the apostles: «Then sending the rain through his clouds, namely through the apostles who announced the truth, ‘the earth has yielded its fruit’ more copiously; and this harvest has now filled the whole world» («Esposizioni sui Salmi» [Expositions on the Psalms] II, Rome, 1970, p. 551).

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father summarized his address in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Psalm 66 is a short but compelling hymn of thanksgiving to God. It is sung to the Lord in the name of all the peoples of the earth, who are called to make his ways known, the ways of salvation, light, and peace. It invokes God’s mercy and calls him to bless his people, that they may produce fruit and in turn become a source of blessing for others. Jesus Christ is the ultimate blessing that God gives to his people. It is through Christ that the whole world receives the promise of redemption, the gift of eternal life.

I extend a special greeting to the diaconate class of the Pontifical North American College: dear friends, keep your lives ever centered on Jesus Christ so that your ministry in the Church will always reflect his own self-sacrifice for the redemption of the world. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present today, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Malta, the Philippines, Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, and the United States of America, I invoke joy and peace in the Risen Savior.

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