The Word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:8
Psalm Reflections - Summer 2007

This series of reflections was written by Barbara Shanahan.

Week 1  Week 2   Week 3   Week 4   Week 5

Week 6   Week 7   Week 8   Week 9   Week 10

Opening the Psalms-Summer '07…

Taking time to pray and reflect on the Psalms can offer us an island of peacefulness, a respite, source of refreshment and a starting place for prayer.  During the summer, I would invite you to take one psalm and spend the week praying this psalm each day perhaps in the morning and in the evening, silently listening and being open to the ways God will speak to you through the words as these are prayed each day.   We will not study the Psalms in their entirety as a unique collection in the Bible, but we will focus on our psalm for that week and attempt to look more deeply at the words, the images and how these draw us to God.  In the process, we will learn much about the spirituality of the Psalter and how it can direct us in our relationship with God and how this reminds us often during the day of that bond.   

Week 1 - Psalm 23…

Approaching a text that is familiar can be a blessing.  On the other hand, it has its drawbacks because we might be tempted to think we have plumbed its depths and have nothing new to learn.   We may also be tempted to limit it to one context-in this case it is a psalm used for funerals!   What will occur over the days of praying, if we truly listen; it will take on a new life for each of us.    As our time will perhaps make clear, isolating one psalm from the entire collection deprives us of something important the Psalter has to teach us:  that God speaks through every moment of our life-whether we experience joy, sorrow, anger, disappointment, loss,  humiliation or any other emotion.  Seeing how one psalm is set alongside another of contrasting sentiment makes us aware of how quickly life can change and how readily we must turn to God in every circumstance.  As an example of this note the psalm just before Psalm 23! 

1)  Try imagining what life is like for one who prays this Psalm.   It might be helpful to write your thoughts down… 
2)   Then consider the ways God enters into life and changes things… 
3)  What words strike you, give you comfort,  are not clear to you?  Sit with these words or phrases and listen.   Don't write a script, listen for the feelings they awaken in you.  Write these down! 

Are there any references to other places in the Bible where you find some words or phrases?  Shepherd is a word that often appears (See Ezekiel 34) … what does this mean?  Go to these texts if your footnotes or cross references can guide you and flesh out your understanding of shepherd.   What about the word "anoint"…in biblical tradition and in your own life.   And the word "banquet"…in the Bible (see Isa 25 and New Testament accounts)   Does this bring you to ponder  the eucharistic banquet?    Who are the "foes"?  Who/ what might these be for you?  Mostly, who is God for YOU in this Psalm? 

As you jot down your notes each day, take one simple thought or word and bring it into your mind often throughout the day.   At the end of the week (after praying the Psalm for 5-6 days) write your own prayer in your notebook.      

We can formulate our words to God in prayer.  This is an important part of praying, but when we quiet ourselves, this is when God has the hope of getting through to us.  The psalms are formulated as the prayers of a person set before God, but as Sacred Scripture, they are also God's word to us.  Try reading the psalm as if these are God's words spoken to you.  What is it they have to say?