Act Like This…

After a short hiatus I am back and picking up with Psalm 15, the next one in the sequence as I reflect on all 150 over the coming weeks.

I have cut and pasted the entire Psalm below because it’s beautiful and I just love what it says. It’s from the United States Council of Catholic Bishop’s website and it includes footnotes as all the Bible verses do there. I believe they use the New American Bible edition. An interesting notation concerns verse 5 (“lends no money at interest”). What this actually refers to is giving money to the poor who could never repay the donor. So, instead of ‘lending’ we can think of this as a donation to the poor. It’s what God wants us to do. Jesus tells us that, “the poor you will have with you always.” And that sounds sort of cold hearted, but I think it’s just a fact. And Jesus is not one to mince words or sugar coat anything. So there you have it. I wonder if that saddened Jesus when He told His disciples that there was nothing that would occur after His death and resurrection and ascension into Heaven that would end poverty, homelessness, loneliness. That would all still be, is, a part of our world even after His earth shattering sacrifice.

But we are more than once directed to take care of the poor, the widow (who in that society was helpless without a husband or a male child to take her in), the orphan, in both the Old and New Testaments. And Jesus means business. He speaks in his “sheep” and “goats” discourse about those who don’t care for the “least of these” and what their terrible consequences will be. And then He assures the “sheep” that they, who took care of the poor and downtrodden, the forgotten, will be called to His Father’s house. Because when you do something for the good of those outcasts, you are doing it to Jesus.

So when the Psalmist asks, “Who may dwell on your holy mountain?” we already know, with the benefit of New Testament knowledge, who will be there. Do what’s right, for God’s sake. One slight, but significant change from the time this psalm was written to Jesus’ time is the “disdain the wicked” idea. Jesus does not ‘disdain’ anyone, although there are some exceptions and they’re awesome. Calling some ‘holy men’ a “brood of vipers” is a moment we shouldn’t forget. And they were vipers because they took advantage of the poor, they neglected those who needed love the most. Shame on those who were supposed to be God’s emissaries. He turned over tables in the Temple because those moneychangers were turning the holiest of places into place where usury and exploitation of the poor was rampant.

So, in Psalm 15 we observe people living a good life as God expects and that leads to law abiding citizens. That’s a non-spiritual and rather mundane side effect of living a holy life, but true nonetheless. Consider Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, who takes his very pregnant wife to Bethlehem because they have to be counted for the census. A despotic king seems to arbitrarily demand a census of the inhabitants of his kingdom and those who are neglected and poor and forgotten travel at great personal sacrifice to the place of the head of the household’s origin to be counted. It’s a humble and a profound act on the part of Joseph. It’s one we should try to model. Doing the will of God often means hardship. Doing the will of the state can sometimes seem punitive, but Jesus tells us to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” or, be law abiding. One could argue Jesus learned this from his earthly dad…an observant Jewish family man who knew what God wanted of His people.

aA psalm of David.

I

 LORD, who may abide in your tent?*

Who may dwell on your holy mountain?*

II

2Whoever walks without blame,b

doing what is right,

speaking truth from the heart;

3Who does not slander with his tongue,

does no harm to a friend,

never defames a neighbor;

4Who disdains the wicked,

but honors those who fear the LORD;

Who keeps an oath despite the cost,

5lends no money at interest,*

accepts no bribe against the innocent.c

III

Whoever acts like this

shall never be shaken.