Psalm 95

 

Come, let us sing to the Lord

and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us.

Let us approach Him with praise and thanksgiving

and sing joyful songs to the Lord.

 

          There is something heart-lifting about receiving an invitation.  Whether to a wedding or a birthday, a graduation or a picnic, behind the details of date and time and place, an invitation carries an implicit message: You’re welcome.  You’re wanted.  Your presence is a blessing.











                                                                      
Part 5
Invited
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     God issues invitations, too.  Through the psalmist, He invited the Chosen People to honor Him with their prayer and their praise.  Among these “invitatory” psalms, Psalm 95 held an eminent place.   Designated for frequent use in the ancient Temple liturgies, the early Christians soon included Psalm 95 in their own liturgical prayer.  By the time St. Francis of Assisi directed his friars to faithfully pray the Divine Office Psalm 95 had already been for centuries the invitatory psalm which opened each day’s ecclesial sacrifice of praise.  

 

The Lord is God, the mighty God, the great King over all the gods.

He holds in His hands the depths of the earth and the highest mountains as well.

He made the sea; it belongs to Him, the dry land, too, for it was formed by His hands.

 

     How honored we are to receive an invitation from someone important.  Psalm 95 is a reminder of how much more honored we should be when we receive an invitation to praise God.  The honor that St. Francis felt in being summoned to the divine praises was matched by the intensity of his attention, reverence and devotion in addressing the Great King during the time of prayer.

 

Come, then, let us bow down and worship, bending the knee before the Lord, our maker.

For He is our God and we are His people, the flock He shepherds.

 

            Prayer involves the whole person – heart and voice, soul and body.  It is moving to think of our Lord participating in the Temple liturgies during His life on earth, bowing down with the whole assembly to worship His heavenly Father.   When the Little Poor Man taught his brothers to pray, he urged them to show reverence for the Blessed Sacrament by prostrating before the churches they passed.  Even their bodies proclaimed: We adore You!  Psalm 95 urges us to make every bow and genuflection a vibrant expression of faith in worship. 

 

O that today you would hear the voice of the Lord: Harden not your hearts as your fathers did in the desert,

when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me, although they had seen all of my works.

 

            The CATECHISM declares: When the Church celebrates the mystery of Christ, there is a word that marks her prayer: TODAY! (#1165)  It is in the present that we encounter [God], not yesterday or tomorrow: O that today you would hear His voice! (#2659)  Few saints have plumbed the mystery of today as did Francis of Assisi.  That is why he set himself to respond promptly to every invitation to prayer – whether he was on the road or in a crowd or on his deathbed.  Francis kept his heart open and listening.  Thus he could hear the voice of the Lord inviting him to prayer and praise through every person and in every circumstance.

 

Forty years I endured that generation. 
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways.”

So I swore in my anger, “They shall not enter into my rest.”

 

            The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, commenting on Psalm 95, admonishes his readers to avoid the hardness of heart which would render them incapable of entering into God’s rest.  It is a matter of priorities.  The Chosen People opted for idols; the invited guests in Jesus’ parable chose fields and oxen.  They could not enter into the rest which the Great King offered.  St. Francis wisely noted that it truly is a great misery and a miserable weakness to be concerned with lesser things when one has been invited to the higher good which is the worship of God.  That is why when the summons to prayer comes, at any time and in any form, even if counted among the spiritually blind and lame, poor and sinful, one thing is certain: YOU’RE INVITED!