JOHN PAUL II
1. In a General Audience sometime ago, commenting on the Psalm that precedes the one we have just heard, we said that it was closely related to the following one. In fact, Psalms 41 and 42 form one song, divided into three parts by the same antiphon: "Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why do you groan within me? Hope in God; for I shall praise him again, the saviour of my countenace and my God" (Ps 41 ,6.12; 42,5).
In Psalm 42, instead of speaking only to himself as in the previous psalm, the Psalmist turns to God and entreats him to defend him against his adversaries. Taking up, almost literally, an invocation announced in the other psalm (cf. 41,10), the praying person this time effectively addresses his desolate cry to God "Why then do you spurn me? Why must I go about in sadness, with the enemy oppressing me?" (Ps 42,2).
St Ambrose's reading of the Psalmist's experience is significant, applying it to Jesus praying at Gethsemane: "You should not be surprised that the prophet says that his soul was shaken, for the Lord Jesus himself said: "Now my soul is troubled'. In fact, he has taken our weaknesses upon himself, even our sensibility, and this was why he was saddened even unto death, but not because of death. A voluntary death, on which the happiness of all mankind depended, could not have caused sadness.... So he was saddened unto death, while waiting for the grace to be carried to fulfilment. This is reflected in his own witness when he says of his death: "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am in anguish until it is accomplished!" (Le rimonstranze di Giobbe e di Davide, Rome 1980, VII, 28, p. 233, The Remonstrances of Job and David).
Very eloquent is the sequence of stages of his drawing closer to Zion and its spiritual centre. First appears the holy hill on which stand the temple and citadel of David. Then the "dwellings" appear on the scene, the sanctuary of Zion with all the different spaces and buildings that make it up. Then "the altar of God", the place of sacrifice and of the official worship of the whole people. The last and decisive goal is the God of joy; his embrace, the intimate encounter with him who at first was distant and silent.
The Psalm then becomes the prayer of the one who is a pilgrim on earth and still finds himself in contact with evil and suffering, but has the certainty that the endpoint of history is not an abyss of death, but rather a saving encounter with God. This certainty is even stronger for Christians, to whom the Letter to the Hebrews proclaims: "You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel" (Heb 12,22-24).
The Holy Father then addressed the faithful in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors he said:
I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, especially the members of the Apostolate for the Vietnamese in Diaspora. My warm greeting also goes to the pilgrims from the Diocese of Charleston. I thank the Choir from Saint John the Baptist Church for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you and your families I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lastly, the Holy Father said in Italian:
I want to greet the young people, the sick, and the newly-wed couples. Today we are celebrating the liturgical memorial of St Paul Miki and his companions, the Japanese martyrs.
May the courage of these faithful witnesses of Christ help you, dear young people, to open your hearts to the heroism of holiness. May it sustain you, dear sick people, as you offer up the precious gift of prayer and suffering for the whole Church. And may it give you, dear newly-wed couples, strength to make your families a place where you will live a life shaped by Christian values.
My Blessing to you all.