November 2020 Lectio Divina and Oblate Reflections
Topic: The Psalms
Sources: Psalm 23; Study Guide for The Rule of St. Benedict, pages 90-97, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB
St. Benedict used the Psalms extensively in writing his Rule and suggested that we ought to pray all 150 Psalms at least once a week. This is a tall order for the average person, but perhaps we pray a psalm every day, contemplating its meaning in our hearts as a start. Psalm 23 is one of the most loved and most known of the Psalms, a comforting Psalm for our challenging times.
For our Lectio Divina, we used the following translation of Psalm 23.
There were many words and phrases that resonated with us:
The Lord is my shepherd. In Psalm 23, the Lord, as shepherd in image and metaphor, is active and personal in our lives. The relationship between the shepherd and sheep is intimate—the sheep recognize its shepherd’s voice, just as when we “listen with the ear of the heart”, as Benedict instructs, we grow in intimacy with the Divine Shepherd. One senses the real presence of a God who walks with me, who makes me lie down in green pastures, who leads me, who restores my soul, who guides me, who prepares a table for me, who anoints, who is with me. The Lord is my shepherd who accompanies in my “valley of darkness.”
In green pastures God gives me repose. Many Psalms use images of nature to express the relationship between God and creation as “a revelation of God’s presence, God’s power and care.” (Beil, Study Guide for the Rule of St. Benedict) Green pastures can only exist with the presence of water. Water is evidence of life—we cannot live without it. Our beginning is in the waters of the womb, and in Scripture it is part of our salvation history. God led his people out of Egypt through raging waters and it is through the waters of baptism that we are saved. The shepherd is my guide and leads me “beside still waters” in some versions, and to “waters of peace” in this version. It is in the image of “green pastures that God brings me repose.” God brings to me—I cannot achieve it myself—the gift of rest, tranquility, harmony, stillness, peace, quiet, calm, a breathing space.
I fear no evil for you are with me. It is not necessary for me to rely on self alone, to spend time overthinking, for God is with me. The Psalmist claims that “even if people are suffering, God will be with them and strength them.” (Beil, Study Guide for the Rule of St. Benedict) “There is NOTHING I shall want,” is a good reminder that with eyes of faith we have all we need. By standing in a place of gratitude, we experience what it means to have and be enough. I am comforted that I may have peace and rest instead of fear and angst, “forever and ever!” Amen.
Psalm 23 can be visited again and again in prayer. Each time one prays with the words and images, new life experiences can draw different meaning or emphasis. A few years ago, our oblate group reflected on Psalm 23 as well.
“The Lord is MY shepherd is an intimate prayer between God and me. You cannot separate the Psalm from the whole history of salvation, but, finally, the Psalm needs to mean something for me. In Israel everyone knew what the Psalmist was talking about—the sheep needed guidance, protection, and leadership. We hear this Psalm over and over, especially at funerals, and it seems the green pasture is something that happens after death; it’s only in the afterlife. But this Psalm is for the living!! The green grass is where we can sit down and rest. Whatever difficulties we are going through, the image of the green pasture can bring us peace. A pasture in the dessert is a healthy image; it means there is water. There is life when there is food and water; God spreads a table before me.”
“Water is a symbol of baptism, of being in the life of Christ. Just as the desert becomes a meadow with streaming water, we receive nourishment in the dryness of our lives. Christ brings us into this nourishment through the body and blood of Christ. The shepherd becomes the host, spreading the table before us.” (Excerpted from The Lord is Our Shepherd: New Meaning, Ancient Words)
It is the image of healing waters, of “waters of peace” that resonates most with me. During my personal reflection, I revisited some SoulCollage® images and reflections that have been meaningful to me.