In this cycle of three Psalms, we experience a journey we have all often traveled. The psalms are introduced by an excerpt from the wisdom of “Sirach” (a reminder to all of us who feel frustration at the system — in place of neighbor, insert ex-spouse).
Wrath and anger are hateful things,
but the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the Lord?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive your sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.
Psalm 13 – Hope in God.
How long, O Lord, will you forget me?
How long with you hide your face?
How long must I bear grief in my soul,
this sorrow in my heart day and night?
How long shall my enemy prevail?
Look at me, answer me, Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes lest I fall asleep in death,
lest my enemies say: “I have overcome him”;
lest my foes rejoice to see my fall.
As for me, I trust in your merciful love.
Let my heart rejoice in your saving help:
Let me sing to the Lord for his goodness to me,
singing psalms to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
Psalm 88 – Prayer of a sick person.
In this Psalm, unique in all the psalmody by its complete lack of hope, we can appreciate the suffering this person has endured, and experience the deep despair in which they are grasped.
Lord my God, I call for help by day;
I cry at night before you.
Let me prayer come into your presence.
O turn your ear to my cry.
For my soul is filled with evils;
my life is on the brink of the grave.
I am reckoned as one in the tomb:
I have reached the end of my strength,
like one alone among the dead;
like the slain lying in their graves;
like those you remember no more,
cut off, as they are, from your hand.
You have laid me in the depths of the tomb,
in places that are dark, in the depths.
Your anger weighs down upon me;
I am drowned beneath your waves.
You have taken away my friends
and made me hateful in their sight.
Imprisoned, I cannot escape;
my eyes are sunken with grief.
I call to you, Lord, all the day long;
to you I stretch out my hands.
Will you work your wonders for the dead?
Will the shades stand and praise you?
Will your love be told in the grave
or your faithfulness among the dead?
Will your wonders be known in the dark
or your justice in the land of oblivion?
As for me, Lord, I call to you for help:
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you hide your face?
Wretched, close to death from my youth,
I have borne your trials; I am numb.
Your fury has swept down upon me;
your terrors have utterly destroyed me.
They surround me all the day like a flood,
they assail me all together.
Friend and neighbor you have taken away:
my one companion is darkness.
Psalm 23 – The Good Shepherd
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
in verdant pastures he gives me repose.
Besides restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil;
for you are at my side;
with your rod and your staff that give me courage.
You prepare a table before me in the sight of my foes;
you annoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.