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Pope reflects on the Psalm sung at the Last Supper

Catholic World News - October 19, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI continued his “School of Prayer” at his weekly public audience on October 19, with a commentary on Psalm 136, stressing the unchanging power of God’s love and the healthy human impulse toward thanksgiving.

Psalm 136, the Pope observed, lists many of God’s actions to sustain the people of Israel through history. Each mention is followed by the refrain: “For His steadfast love endures forever.” The Holy Father remarked: “It is God’s faithful love, in fact, which is revealed in the ordered beauty of the universe and in the great events of Israel’s liberation from slavery and the pilgrimage of the Chosen People to the land of promise.”

While God’s love is steady, the record of His people is not, the Pope continued. “The history of Israel has known exhilarating moments of joy, of fullness of life, of awareness of the presence of God and His salvation,” the Holy Father reminded the 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. "But it has also been marked by episodes of sin, painful periods of darkness, and profound affliction.” So Psalm 136 sets up a contrast: “While man forgets easily, God remains faithful.”

Traditionally Psalm 136 was recited by the Jewish faithful at the conclusion of the Passover seder, the Pope said. Thus it is probable that Jesus and the apostles recited this psalm after the Last Supper. Pope Benedict noted that Psalm 136 concludes by saying that God always cares for his people, “caring for life and giving bread.” That line of praise to God was fulfilled in the Eucharist. “So great is God's merciful goodness,” Pope Benedict remarked; “the sublimity of His 'love which endures forever.'"

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