Commentary on Psalm 144(145)

“The Lord … Concerned About All His Creatures”

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2006 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today’s general audience, which he dedicated to reflect on Psalm 144(145):1-13.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

1. We have raised the prayer of Psalm 144(145), a joyous praise to the Lord who is exalted as loving and tender king, concerned about all his creatures. The liturgy presents this hymn to us in two different moments, which correspond also to the two poetic and spiritual movements of the same psalm. Now we pause on the first part, which corresponds to verses 1 to 13.

The psalm is addressed to the Lord who is invoked and described as “king” (cf. Psalm 144[145]:1), divine representation dominant in other hymns of the Psalms (cf. Psalms 46;92;95-98). What is more, the spiritual center of our hymn is constituted precisely by an intense and impassioned celebration of divine royalty. In it is repeated on four occasions — as though indicating the four cardinal points of being and history — the Hebrew word “malkut,” “kingdom” (cf. Psalm 144[145]:11-13).

We know that these royal symbols, which will have a central character also in the preaching of Christ, are the expression of the salvific plan of God: He is not indifferent to human history; moreover, he desires to work out with and for us a plan of harmony and peace. The whole of humanity is also called to fulfill this plan to obey the divine salvific will, a will that extends to all “men,” to “all generations” and to “all centuries.” A universal action, which uproots evil from the world and enthrones the “glory” of the Lord, namely, his personal, effective and transcendent presence.

1. At the heart of this psalm, which appears precisely in the center of this composition, is addressed the prayerful praise of the psalmist, who makes himself spokesman of all the faithful and who today would like to be spokesman for all of us. The highest biblical prayer is, in fact, the celebration of the works of salvation which reveal the Lord’s love for his creatures. The psalm continues exalting the divine “name,” namely, his person (cf. verses 1-2), which manifests itself in his historic action: There is talk of “works,” “wonders,” “prodigies,” “power,” “greatness,” “justice,” “patience,” “mercy,” “grace,” “goodness” and “tenderness.”

It is a kind of prayer in the form of a litany which proclaims the entry of God in human vicissitudes to lead the whole of created reality to a salvific fullness. We are not at the mercy of dark forces, or alone with our freedom, but we have been entrusted to the action of the powerful and loving Lord, who will establish for us a plan, a “reign” (cf. verse 11).

2. This “reign” does not consist of power or dominion, triumph or oppression, as often happens, unfortunately, with earthly kingdoms, but it is the seat of a manifestation of mercy, tenderness, goodness, grace, justice, as confirmed on several occasions in the verses that contain praise.

The synthesis of this divine portrait is in verse 8: The Lord is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” They are words that recall the introduction that God made of himself on Sinai, where he said: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). We have here a preparation for the profession of faith in God of St. John the Apostle, saying to us simply that He is love: “Deus caritas est” (cf. 1 John 4:8,16).

3. In addition to reflecting on these beautiful words, which show us a God “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” always ready to forgive and help, our attention also focuses on the very beautiful verse 9: “The Lord is good to all, compassionate to every creature.” A word that must be meditated on, a word of consolation, a certainty that contributes to our life. In this connection, St. Peter Chrysologus (born around the year 380 and died around 450), expresses himself with these words in the “Second Discourse on Fasting”: “‘Great are the works of the Lord’: But this grandeur that we see in the grandeur of Creation, this power is surpassed by the greatness of mercy. In fact, the prophet having said: ‘Great are the works of God,’ adds in another passage: ‘His mercy is greater than all his works.’ Mercy, brothers, fills the heavens, fills the earth. Because of this, the great, generous, unique mercy of Christ, which reserved all judgment for only one day, assigned all man’s time to the truce of penance. Because of this, the prophet, who did not have confidence in justice itself, has total confidence in mercy: ‘Mercy, my God, by your goodness, by your very compassion blot out my transgression’ (Psalm 50:3)” (42,4-5: “Sermoni 1-62 bis,” “Scrittori dell’Area Santambrosiana,” 1, Milan-Rome, 1996, pp. 299, 301). And we also say to the Lord: “Have mercy on me, my God, as great is your mercy.”

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our reflection today centers on Psalm 44, which presents the Lord as a loving King who is full of compassion. The spiritual heart of this prayer is an intense and moving celebration of God’s majesty.

In fact, the royal symbolism is an expression of God’s saving plan for all men and women: Far from being indifferent to humanity, he wishes to establish on earth a kingdom of harmony and peace, and to this end God enters our history through wonderful works and mighty deeds.

Unlike territorial kingdoms, which so often have been marked by power or even oppression, the psalm evokes a reign of gentleness, grace and justice. Indeed, the King is “slow to anger and abounding in love.”

St. Peter Chrysologus notes that, even greater than the Lord’s works is the Lord’s mercy. Let us too raise our voices today in praise of God’s benevolence, mercy and care for all humanity!

I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including groups from England and the United States of America. I greet in particular those attending the Conference of European English-speaking Rectors as well as the trustees and officers of the University of Notre Dame. Upon all of you, I invoke the peace and joy of Jesus Christ our Lord!

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