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Pope John Paul II Speaks on the Psalms

Pope John Paul II, in his weekly audiences, has been presenting catecheses on various Psalms. VIS, the Vatican Information Services, has provided excerpts from his texts on powerful themes for the life of the Christian. Several of these follow:



The Pope spoke about Psalm 61 in which “two types of trust are contrasted. They are two fundamental choices, one good and one perverse, which entail two types of moral conduct. There is above all trust in God ‘God is my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I shall not be shaken.

“There also exists,” he continued, another type of trust, of an idolatrous nature, which the psalmist focuses on with critical attention. It is a trust that moves one to seek safety and stability in violence, covetous-ness and riches.”

John Paul II referred to “the first false god, the violence which humanity unfortunately continues to resort to even in these bloody days. Accompany-
ing this idol is an immense procession of wars, oppression, perversions, torture and killing, inflicted without any trace of remorse.”

“The second false god is robbery which is expressed in extortion, social injustice, usury, political and economic corruption. Too many people cultivate he ‘illusion’ of satisfying in this way their own greed. Finally, riches is the third idol to which ‘man’s heart attaches itself in the false hope of being saved from death and being assured of gaining power and prestige.”

The Pope indicated that “if we were conscious of our mortality and of the limits of man, we would not choose to trust in idols, nor would we organize our life on a series of fragile and inconsistent pseudo-values. We would aim rather for another type of trust, one who center is in the Lord, source of eternity and peace.

“The Second Vatican Council applied to priests the invitation of this psalm ‘to keep our heart detached from riches’ … However, this call to reject perverse trust and to choose trust that brings us to God is valid for all and must become a guiding star in our daily behavior, moral decisions, in our choice of lifestyle.”


VATICAN CITY, December 1, 2004 (VIS)

In today’s general audience the Holy Father dedicated his catechesis to Psalm 71, “a royal hymn which the Fathers of the Churches medicated on and interpreted in a Messianic light.”

The Psalm opens, the Pope explained, with an “intense choral appeal to God to grant the sovereign the basic gift to govern and administer justice, especially with the poor who are often the victims of power.”

“If the rights of the poor are violated, not only does a politically incorrect and morally evil act occur. According to the Bible, an act against God is perpetrated, a religious offense, because the Lord is the guardian and defender of the poor and oppressed, widows and orphans, those who have no one to protect them on earth.”

“It is easy to understand how tradition has substituted the often disappointing king … with the luminous and glorious physiognomy of the Messiah … who will judge the poor justly and who will make fair decisions in favor of the poor of the land.”

“After this lively and passionate plea for the gift of justice,” said John Paul II, “the Psalm looks beyond and contemplates how the Messianic kingdom is spread on two coordinates, those of time and space … A rich and serene kingdom based on the basic values of justice and peace. These are the signs of the entrance of the Messiah in our history.”


VATICAN CITY, November 17, 2004 (VIS)

Today’s general audience the Pope dedicated the catechesis to Psalm 66, “May all peoples glorify the Lord.”

The Holy Father said that, in this psalm, the phrase “the earth has yielded its fruit,’ makes us think of a hymn of thanksgiving, addressed to the Creator for the gifts of the earth, a sign of divine blessing.”

“The divine blessing asked for by Israel manifests itself in the fertility of the land and in the fecundity, or the gift of life … Thanks to the blessing that Israel begged God for, all of humanity will be able to know ‘the way’ and ‘the saving power’ of the Lord, that is His saving plan. It is revealed to all creatures and all societies that God judges and governs the peoples and the nations in the entire world, leading everyone toward the horizons of justice and peace.”

John Paul II stated that the psalm alludes to the “wall of separation that separated the Jews and the Pagans in the temple of Jerusalem,” as described in the Letter to the Ephesians: “But now in Jesus Christ, you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. In effect, He is our peace: He who made us both one and who has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, enmity … So that you are no longer strangers or guests but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

“In this text,” he added, “there is a message for us: we must break down the walls of division, hostility and hatred so that the family of God can gather in harmony around one table to bless and praise the Creator for the many gifts with which He enriches our lives, with no distinctions.”

The Holy Father concluded by underscoring that Christian tradition “has interpreted Psalm 66 in a Christological and mariological way. For the Fathers of the Church, ‘the earth has yielded its fruit’ refers to Our Lady who gave birth to Christ.”

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXV, No. 1, Jan.-Feb. 2005.