Psalm 23 – Fourth Sunday of Easter 2020
I’ve written in earlier years about this Sunday and vocations and the discernment teachings that are found in John 10 with its account of the good shepherd. I’ll focus today on Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
I don’t have proof, but I would say that this is probably the most well loved psalm. I think that if I were a sociologist of religion, I would quiz people on why this psalm is so loved. Is it because of its promise of not wanting, green pastures, still waters, or dwelling in the house of the Lord?
Perhaps Psalm 23 is a good piece to reflect on in these strange days. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil. Our global pandemic certain qualifies as a dark valley. The psalm reminds us that God is with us. God has not abandoned us.
One of my isolation time projects has been cleaning up the basement of my Jesuit residence. A lot of stuff has accumulated over the years. Several of the owners have been dead for a while.
There are the usual things that people store in basements – luggage, files, photo albums, winter coats, and so on. Things that are not necessary in the immediate moment. There are a lot of books down there. A lot! I’ve been enjoying sorting and discovering and exploring. It’s like a used bookstore where I determine the hours.
A few days ago, I came across a book from 1970 – A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. The author is Phillip Keller. He was born in East Africa and studied and worked in Canada.
Keller does exactly what the title states. He invites us to see with the shepherd’s eyes, touch with his hands, and feel with his heart.
He describes the 23rd Psalm as David’s hymn of praise to divine diligence, meaning that the entire poem recounts the manner in which the Good Shepherd spares no pains for the welfare of his sheep. God will do anything to be with us.
I shall flourish and thrive no matter what life may bring to me, even COVID-19. Along the way, Keller offers plenty of reflection questions, such as, do I really belong to the Good Shepherd, or do I sense a purpose and contentment that I am under God’s care?
The author recognizes that David, the author of the Psalm, was aware of his own brokenness and sense of dejection. David knew defeat and sin; he knew what it was to feel hopeless. If we are honest, we all know that sense of personal defeat and a lack of hope.
Keller reminds us that the person with a powerful confidence in God knows that God has been with him or her in adversity. That is the one who can walk through life’s dark valleys without fear. Many storms confront us. COVID-19 is certainly such a storm. Can I truly believe that God is with me, as this Psalm promises?
The Psalm opens with the statement, The Lord is my Shepherd. It closes with the assurance that I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. I’m mindful of Teresa of Avila and her words, Let nothing disturb you …