Liturgy of the Passion: The Psalm Passage – A Chronic and Unavoidable Situation

[For all my fellow RP’ers; and in memory of Gary.]

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.” (Psalms 31:9 – 10)

Every one and any one has had days, weeks, months and even years like this. Perhaps their lifetime. Do not believe that is not possible, beloved reader; a lifetime of misery. Those with chronic conditions, especially chronic pain and disease have levels of discomfort and agony that some can only guess at. I know, because I have a chronic illness. Some days are a struggle to get through, and psalms like this put into words the things I feel and the prayer I lift up.

I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.” (Verse 11)

It is a friendless and lonely experience, or it can be. When you give voice to your feelings and condition, and are unavailable for simple requests and outings, you tend to get left out.

“I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror all around!— as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.” (Verses 12 – 13)

The psalmist it seems, however, is not talking illness but life situations. That is, events and situations that arise out of actions and not the body’s condition. But for several verses, the words and sentiments paralleled some of my days. And the remedy to that is also one that the psalmist has found.

But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;

save me in your steadfast love.” (Verses 14 – 16)

There are many of my fellow chronic illness suffers who rely on the Lord for their strength and endurance. We are constantly praying for one another and lifting one another up to the Lord. We encourage and support each other, but also rely on the Divine to comfort and sustain us. While our bodies fail us, we trust that the Lord will not. Though we may suffer, we are surrounded by angels who watch over us. The human body may fail; but the human spirit under girded by the Holy Spirit thrives!

I also want to reminder you beloved reader that this is the psalms passage for Liturgy of the Passion; that this psalm chosen to reflect the Messiah’s situation here at the end of Lent. Hunted down by temple guards, scribes, and the Pharisees. Watched and plotted against by unbelievers and those who wish to see his downfall. But it is not a situation that the Messiah avoids or steps away from. Indeed, he has entered Jerusalem fully expecting it. May our trust in the Divine be as great. Selah!