22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2021): Psalm 15

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Homily Notes for the 22nd Sunday of OT, Year B (2021): Psalm 15

·  Many bishops, priests and deacons who have the blessed opportunity to preach at a Sunday Mass are guilty of neglecting to preach on the Responsorial Psalm. I confess to rarely make reference to the Psalm of a given Sunday liturgy, which is a shame since they are poetic masterpieces in their own right!

·  The 150 Psalms speak of every human experience, from the greatest joys to the deepest sorrows. Praying a psalm that speaks to the experience you are undergoing helps to give words to our emotions you feel while reading a psalm that seems quite detached from what you are feeling at a particular time reminds one of the need for empathy for those who going through what the psalm so eloquently describes.

·  Today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 15, is among the shorter works of the Psalter but packed into its 5 verses are serious words to ponder and put into practice!

·  Psalms 15 speaks of what someone must do in order to properly dwell in the House of God. When this psalm was first composed, it was the Tent of Meeting, that Moses commanded be set up as God’s dwelling place in the desert and then in the Kingdom of Israel before the construction of the Temple, that is referred to as the tent where someone may abide with God.

·  This was no ordinary tent you would take on a camping trip but an ornate and beautiful sanctuary, made with the finest materials, and kept within it the most sacred liturgical vessel of God’s people, the Ark of the Covenant. One did not just haphazardly walk into God’s holy Tent without first examining their conscience and considering if they were living a holy life that reflected the holiness that dwelt in God’s holy tent.

·  Eventually this tent would be replaced with the Jerusalem Temple, but the words of Psalm 15 continued to ring true for anyone who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and prepared to enter the House where God was believed to have made his unique and special dwelling place here on earth, the place of holy encounter between God and His people.

·  Remember too that the temple also had areas designated for non-Jewish people, as a way to show that God desired to eventually one day welcome in all the nations of the earth when His Son would give birth to the Holy Church at the Cross and Pentecost and commission the Apostles to welcome those of every tribe, tongue, people and nation.

·  But back to the verses of Psalm 15. If you were going to enter the Tent/Temple of God, what virtues did you need to possess as the necessary requirements to properly enter in?

·  The psalmist gives 11 requirements for proper entry, which can be summarized as living out what our readings from Deuteronomy and St James taught about following the commandments of God as doers and not merely hearers of the Word and practicing religion that is pure and undefiled, since as St. John Paul II noted the Old and New Testaments explicitly affirm that without love of neighbour, made concrete in keeping the commandments, genuine love of God is not possible.

·  Notice that this Psalm does not speak of ritual purity or sacrifices as needed to enter God’s Holy Tent, practices that were so important to the pharisees and scribes and of which Jesus chastised them for being infatuated with these religious practices yet unconcerned with the manifold sins that they allowed to enter into their hearts and cause them to no longer show love to God and neighbour.

·  The last line of this psalm is especially inspiring, since the one who takes to heart the 11 requirements will never be moved in their relationship with God, for they truly take refuge in Him and daily consider how to improve their practice of the Christian life.

·  Might I suggest that each of us take time to re-read this psalm and ask ourselves if we are truly doers of the Word of God and not merely those who listen, who might find the scriptures interesting to consider but do not practice what they teach.

·  It could also be a fruitful practice for us to examine our conscience before we enter into our own church building or as we sit or kneel in our pew and take note of how we are doing in living as disciples. Being in this House of Prayer, where we know the holiness of God dwells in the Tabernacle, is an opportunity to consider how our relationship with God is going.

·  He welcomes us in to be with Him today, may we make the most of this encounter as a perpetual call to conversion and growth in love of God and one another.