Pope: Scripture Should Lead to 'Personal Encounter With the Lord of Life'

Benedict XVI focuses on Psalm 119 during Nov. 9 general audience.

VATICAN CITY (EWTN News/CNA)—Pope Benedict XVI spoke today about Psalm 119 as a wonderful discourse on the breadth and depth of man’s relationship with God.

The Psalmist’s song “voices the range of sentiments which fill the hearts of those who pray: praise, thanksgiving, trust, supplication and lament, all within the context of a heartfelt openness to the Lord’s word,” the Pope said.

He explained to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Nov. 9 general audience that the Psalm is “an acrostic” – an ancient poetic structure in which each stanza contains eight verses and begins with a different letter from the 22-word Hebrew alphabet. These 22 stanzas also make the Psalm the longest in the Bible.

“This is a very challenging and original literary construction, in which the author of the Psalm had to deploy all his skills,” said the Pope, “but what is more important for us is the central theme of this Psalm.”

This theme was the Psalmist’s proclamation of “his love for God’s Law, which brings light, life and salvation,” recounted in his “solemn celebration of the Torah, the Law of the Lord.”

It is a Psalm “pervaded by the certainty of divine grace and the power of the word of God,” such that even the verses most marked by suffering and darkness remain “open to hope and are permeated with faith.”

“The Psalmist’s faithfulness arises from listening to the word, from keeping it in his heart, meditating upon it,” the Pope taught, drawing a parallel with the Virign Mary, who “‘treasured in her heart’ the words addressed to her, the marvelous events in which God revealed himself and asked for her response of faith.”

When Christians pray this Psalm, they see Mary as the model of the same “loving docility to God’s will and in Jesus the fulfillment of the Law,” said the Pope.

This is a dynamic relationship, he explained, where the word of God is “listened to with obedience but not servility, with filial trust and awareness,” which brings about a “personal encounter with the Lord of life.”

As an example of such an encounter, the Pope focused in on the Psalm’s verse 57, which proclaims, “The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words.”

He explained how the term “portion” refers to “the partition of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel, when the Levites were given no part of the territory because their ‘portion’ was the Lord himself.” Among the 12 tribes of Israel, only the tribe of Levi could not own land because it was tasked with specific religious duties.

These verses, said the Pope, have particular resonance today for Catholic priests “who are called to live from the Lord and from his word alone, with no other guarantees, no other wealth, and having him as their one source of true life.”

“It is in this light,” he said, “that we can understand the free choice of celibacy for the Kingdom of heaven, which must be rediscovered in all its beauty and power.”

At the same time, the Psalm speaks to all the Christian faithful, who are “called to experience the radical nature of the Gospel, to be witnesses of the life brought by Christ, the new and definitive ‘High Priest,’” Pope Benedict said.

This morning’s ceremonies concluded with Pope Benedict being given honorary citizenship in the village of Naz-Siaves, the birthplace of his great-grandmother, Elisabeth Maria Tauber, and his grandmother, Maria Tauber-Peintner. The small, German-speaking village is situated in the northern Italian province of Bolzana, near the Austrian and Swiss borders.


The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy