Monday of the Third Week of Lent
II Kings 5:1-15 + Luke 4:24-30
Then will I go in to the altar of God ….
Today’s Responsorial Psalm joins together parts of two consecutive psalms. Both psalms are short: Psalm 42 is twelve verses long, while Psalm 43 is only five verses. Within these two psalms is a repeated sentence. At the midpoint and the end of Psalm 42 and at the end of Psalm 43 the psalmist cries for what he seeks: “Wait for God, for I shall again praise him, / my savior and my God.” That these psalms are next to each other in the psalter and that they share this sentence suggests that we ought to pray them together. That’s what today’s Responsorial does, although in a very abbreviated manner.
That thrice-repeated sentence—“Wait for God, for I shall again praise him, / my savior and my God”—gives this combined psalm (42-43) a hopeful character. However, when we pray the entirety of both psalms, it’s clear that they form a lament. While the psalmist is hopeful for what he seeks, he hopes amidst desolation. This combination of hope and desolation makes these psalms fitting for Lent.
In the first half of today’s Responsorial, the predominant image is the psalmist’s thirst. It is a thirst “for the living God”. This thirst becomes our focus since it’s repeated within the refrain of today’s Responsorial. The psalmist plaintively yet hopefully asks for what he seeks: “When shall I go and behold the face of God?”
The second half of today’s Responsorial focuses upon God and how He will bring to pass what the psalmist hopes for. The psalmist makes a hopeful plea to God: “Send forth your light and your fidelity”. God’s light and fidelity are the source of the psalmist’s hope, even amidst his desolation. God’s light and fidelity are what will lead the seeker to God’s “holy mountain”, God’s “dwelling place”.
That is the place where the seeker shall “behold the face of God”. There the seeker shall, in the last verse of the Responsorial, “go in to the altar of God, [and] give [Him] thanks upon the harp”. This end, this goal of praise in His presence would be carried out by the psalmist upon the harp. Christians, however, have a two-fold hope that differs from the psalmist. The Christian hopes finally to see God face-to-face in Heaven in what the Church calls “the Beatific Vision”. Yet even on earth the faithful Christian encounters God through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The words of these psalms make a fitting and beautiful meditation before Holy Mass begins, helping the Christian pilgrim to see what He seeks in Christ’s self-oblation upon the altar of God.