Commentary on Psalm 61(62)

“God, My Strong Rock”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2004 ( Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address at today’s general audience, which he dedicated to reflect on Psalm 61(62).

* * *

1. The gentle words of Psalm 61(62) have just resounded, a song of trust, which opens with a sort of antiphon, repeated in the middle of the text. It is like a serene and strong short prayer, an invocation that is also a program of life: “My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and salvation, my secure height; I shall never fall” (verses 2-3,6-7).

2. As it unfolds, however, the Psalm contrasts two kinds of trust. They are two fundamental choices, one good and the other perverse, which entail two different types of moral conduct. First of all, is trust in God, exalted in the initial invocation where a symbol of stability and security appears, like the rock, “the rock of defense,” namely a fortress and bulwark of protection.

The Psalmist confirms: “My safety and glory are with God, my strong rock and refuge” (verse 8). He affirms this after recalling the hostile plots of his enemies who “plot to dislodge him” (see verses 4-5).

3. However, there is also a trust of an idolatrous nature, on which the one praying fixes, with insistence, his critical attention. It is a trust that leads one to seek security and stability in violence, robbery and wealth.

Then a very clear and sharp appeal is made: “Do not trust in extortion; in plunder put no empty hope. Though wealth increase, do not set your heart upon it” (verse 11). It evokes three idols, proscribed as contrary to the dignity of man and to social coexistence.

4. The first false god is violence, which, unfortunately, humanity continues to engage in also in our blood-drenched days. This idol is accompanied by an immense procession of abominable wars, oppressions, prevarications, tortures and killings, inflicted without a trace of remorse.

The second false god is robbery, which is manifested in extortion, social injustice, usury, and political and financial corruption. Too many people cultivate the “illusion” of satisfying in this world their own greed.

Finally, wealth is the third idol to which “the heart” of man “attaches itself” with the deceitful hope of being able to save himself from death (see Psalm 48[49]) and assure himself prestige and power.

5. By serving this diabolical triad, man forgets that the idols have no consistency; what is more, they are harmful. By trusting in things and in himself, man forgets he is “a breath … an illusion,” in fact, if weighed on a scale, “less than a breath” (Psalm 61[62]:10; see Psalm 38[39]:6-7).

If we were more aware of our perishability and limitations as creatures, we would not choose the path of trust in idols, nor would we organize our lives on a hierarchy of fragile and inconsistent pseudo-values. We would opt, rather, for the other trust, that which is centered on the Lord, source of eternity and peace. To him alone, in fact, “power belongs”; he alone is source of grace; he alone is the author of justice, who “requites a man according to his work” (see Psalm 61[62]:11-12).

6. The Second Vatican Council addressed to priests the invitation of Psalm 61(62) “not to set their hearts on riches” (verse 10). The decree on the ministry and priestly life exhorts: “Therefore, in no way placing their heart in treasures, they should avoid all greediness and carefully abstain from every appearance of business” (“Presbyterorum Ordinis,” No. 17). However, this appeal to reject perverse trust and to choose that which leads to God applies to all and must become our polar star in daily conduct, in moral decisions, and in our lifestyle.

7. Undoubtedly, this is an arduous path which also entails trials and courageous choices for the just, but always characterized by trust in God (see Psalm 61[62]:2). In this light, the Fathers of the Church saw in the one praying in Psalm 61(62) the prefiguration of Christ, and put the initial invocation of total trust and adherence to God on his lips.

In this connection, in the Commentary on Psalm 61, St. Ambrose argues: “Our Lord Jesus, by assuming man’s flesh to purify it in his person, should he not have cancelled immediately the evil influence of the ancient sin? Through disobedience, that is, by violating the divine commandments, guilt was introduced, dragging us down. First of all, therefore, he had to repair obedience, to block the focus of sin … He took obedience upon his person, to transmit it to us” (“Commento a Dodici Salmi,” [Commentary on Twelve Psalms], SAEMO, VIII, Milan-Rome, 1980, p. 283).

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, a papal aide read the following summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The gentle words of the Psalm we listened to earlier are like a strong and serene song of praise, and they show us how we should live: “In God alone is my soul at rest. He alone is my rock, my stronghold.”

In marked contrast with this firm trust in the Lord are idolatrous attachments: love of violence, greed, covetousness, viewed as means for acquiring power and prestige.

Yet, those who understand the fallen nature of humanity and the limits to which creatures are subject will shun these false values. They will build their lives around genuine trust, centered on the Lord, who is the source of joy and peace.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including groups from England, Ireland, Japan and the United States of America. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and I wish you many blessings during your stay in Rome.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

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