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 …

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Joan Levy Earle
    Posted at 05:49h, 03 May Reply

    Father Shano, thank you for this reminder that Covid-19 is another storm of life and it too, will pass. Yes, the 23rd Psalm is full of hope and confidence of the true love and presence of Jesus. As our Shepherd, He will never stop caring and all we have to do is ask for His guidance through this “dark valley”.

  • Vicky Chen
    Posted at 07:07h, 03 May Reply

    I remember with profound gratitude all the shepherds of the soul, living and deceased, and those in formation. According to Pope Francis today, 100 of them have died in Italy during this pandemic. Let us join Francis also to pray for the shepherds of the body. Even more have given their lives in service of others.

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 08:52h, 03 May Reply

    Truly, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. It’s well loved and so comforting as well. God is walking with us on sunny or darkness days and we shall not be afraid. God will lead us through this COVID-19 pandemic.

    Thank you Fr. Philip for your inspiring words. God bless you.

  • Patricia Morrissey
    Posted at 09:13h, 03 May Reply

    Phillip Keller’s book is a favorite of mine.
    He explains the language of the Shepherd and how it applies to us!
    Thank you for all the beautiful reflections you share with us.
    Peace and all Good,
    Sr. Jean Morrissey

  • suzanne renaud
    Posted at 09:23h, 03 May Reply

    Thank you for this inspiring essay. Just what I needed today!

  • Jeanette Woodley
    Posted at 09:57h, 03 May Reply

    Psalm 23 is my favourite psalm. It gives me so much peace when I read and meditate on it. Thank you Father Philip.

  • Jenny Cafiso
    Posted at 10:43h, 03 May Reply

    A reflection that will guide my day. It is just right today at this time of fear and mourning. Thank you

  • John Meehan
    Posted at 11:06h, 03 May Reply

    Thanks again for the beautiful reflection, Philip. I remember reading Keller’s wonderful book. In fact, I might have passed it on to someone in your community.

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 12:24h, 03 May Reply

    Thank you Fr Philip. I can never ever tire of reading and reciting Psalm 23. It has such a soothing and reassuring tone to it. It makes me feel and know the security of whose I am and who I am. What an amazing balm for the soul!

Post A Comment

Subscribe to igNation

Subscribe to receive our latest articles delivered right to your inbox!