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Papal reflections on Psalm 23

October 05, 2011

Continuing his weekly “School of Prayer” talks at his public audience on October 5, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the “radical act of confidence” in God that is made in Psalm 23.

In those beloved lines that begin, “The Lord is my shepherd,” the author “expresses his tranquil certainty that he will be guided and protected, sheltered from all danger because the Lord is his shepherd,” the Pope said. The setting is a desert area, but the psalmist has complete confidence that “the shepherd knows where to find pasture and water.” The reference to the “valley of the shadow of death” invokes an old Hebrew expression, the Pope continued. The message is one of “unshakeable trust,” based on the understanding that “God transforms reality, the darkest valley loses all its perils.”

In the second part of the psalm, the Pope continued, the subject shifts, to portray the Lord as “One Who welcomes the psalmist with generous hospitality,” providing food and wine and gifts. The psalmist, having followed the shepherd, finds complete contentment in living with him. This psalm, the Pope said, finds its fulfillment in Jesus, who prepares “the definitive banquet” for his people. Psalm 23, Pope Benedict concluded, should be read as an invitation “to abandon ourselves completely in His hands. Let us, then, trustingly ask the Lord to allow us always to walk on His paths, even along the difficult paths of our own times, as a docile and obedient flock.”


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