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Psalm 96 (97)

The glory of God in his judgements
"This psalm tells of the salvation of the world and of the faith all peoples would have in Christ" (St Athanasius).

The Lord is king, let earth rejoice,
  let all the coastlands be glad.
Cloud and darkness are his raiment;
  his throne, justice and right.

A fire prepares his path;
  it burns up his foes on every side.
His lightnings light up the world,
  the earth trembles at the sight.

The mountains melt like wax
  before the Lord of all the earth.
The skies proclaim his justice;
  all peoples see his glory.

Let those who serve idols be ashamed,
  those who boast of their worthless gods.
  All you spirits, worship him.

Sion hears and is glad;
  the people of Judah rejoice
  because of your judgements, O Lord.

For you indeed are the Lord
  most high above all the earth,
  exalted far above all spirits.

The Lord loves those who hate evil;
  he guards the souls of his saints;
  he sets them free from the wicked.

Light shines forth for the just
  and joy for the upright of heart.
Rejoice, you just, in the Lord;
  give glory to his holy name.

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on Psalm 96
General Audience, Wednesday 3 April 2002 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

Lauds, Wednesday Week 2 - The Glory of the Lord, Judge of the world

"1. The light, joy and peace that fill the community of the disciples of Christ at Easter and that spread throughout creation, pervade our gathering that is taking place during the joyful days of the Octave of Easter. In these days it is Christ's triumph over evil and death that we celebrate. With His Death and Resurrection the Kingdom of justice and love that God desires is definitively established.

Today we will focus on the Kingdom of God in our catechesis given over to a reflection on Psalm 96 [97]. The Psalm begins with the solemn announcement: "The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad", and is defined as a celebration of the divine King, the Lord of the cosmos and of history. We could say that this is an "Easter" Psalm.

We know the importance that Jesus attached to the proclamation of the Kingdom of God in his preaching. It is not just the creature's recognition of his dependence on his Creator; it is also the conviction that within history there is at work a plan, a design, a strategy of harmony and good desired by God. The Paschal Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus have brought this to fulfillment.

2. Let us now read through the Psalm that the liturgy presents for our celebration of Lauds. Immediately after the acclamation to the Lord as King that rings out like a trumpet blast, a great divine epiphany unfolds before the person at prayer. Resorting to the use of quotations, allusions to other passages of the psalms or of the prophets, especially Isaiah, the psalmist describes the coming of the great King onto the world scene who appears surrounded by a series of cosmic ministers or attendants: clouds, thick darkness, fire, lightning.

Alongside of them, another series of attendants personifies his action in history: justice, right and glory. Their entry onto the scene makes all creation quake. The earth rejoices everywhere, including the islands, considered the most remote region (cf. Ps 96 [97],1). Flashes of light light up the whole world and an earthquake makes the world tremble (cf. v. 4). The mountains, that, according to biblical cosmology, incarnate the most ancient and solid reality, melt like wax (cf. v. 5), as the Prophet Micah sang: "Behold, the Lord is coming forth out of his place ... and the mountains will melt under him and the valleys will be cleft, like wax before the fire" (Mi 1,3-4). Angels fill the heavens with songs of praise that exalt justice, the work of salvation brought about by the Lord for the just. Finally, all humanity contemplates the revelation of the divine glory, the mysterious reality of God (cf. Ps 96 [97],6), while the "enemies", the wicked and the unjust, give way before the irresistible power of the judgement of the Lord (cf. v. 3).

3. After the theophany of the Lord of the universe, the Psalm describes two kinds of reaction to the great King and his entry into history. On the one hand, idolaters and idols topple to the ground shamed and defeated; on the other, the faithful, who have gathered in Zion for the liturgical celebration in honour of the Lord, joyfully raise a hymn of praise. The scene of the "worshippers of idols" (cf. v. 7-9) is essential; the idols bow down before the one God and their followers are covered with shame. The just exult in the divine judgement that does away with lies and false piety, sources of moral misery and slavery. They intone a profession of clear faith: "For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods" (v. 9).

4. Against the picture showing the victory over the idols and their worshippers there is set the portrayal of what could be called, the splendid day of the faithful (v. 10-12). Indeed a light that dawns for the just person is described (cf. v. 11): it is the rising of a dawn of joy, festivity and hope, because - as is well known - light is a symbol of God (cf. I Jn 1,5).

The Prophet Malachi declared, "For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays" (Ml 3,20). Light and happiness go together: "Joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!" (Ps 96 [97],11-12).

The Kingdom of God is a source of peace and serenity that overpowers the empire of darkness. A Jewish community in the time of Jesus sang: "Godlessness draws back before justice, just as darkness shrinks from light; godlessness will vanish forever and justice, like the sun, will be shown to be the beginning of the order of the world" (Libro dei misteri di Qumrln [Book of the Mysteries of Qumran]: 1Q 27, I, 5-7).

5. However, before we leave Psalm 96 [97], it is important that we rediscover, along with the face of the Lord the King, the profile of the faithful. Seven features are described, the sign of perfection and fullness. Those who await the coming of the great divine King hate evil, love the Lord, are the hasîdîm, the faithful (cf. v. 10), who walk in the path of justice, are upright of heart (cf. v. 11), rejoice in the works of God and give thanks to the holy name of the Lord (cf. v. 12). Let us ask the Lord to make these spiritual features shine in our faces."

Saluti:

"I offer a warm welcome to the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn in pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. I also thank the many Choirs present for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Japan and the United States, I cordially invoke the grace and peace of the Risen Lord.

J’accueille cordialement les pèlerins francophones, en particulier les jeunes de Reims et d’Orléans. Que la lumière du Christ ressuscité, vainqueur du mal et de la mort, remplisse le cœur des croyants d’une joie profonde, source de confiance renouvelée et de dynamisme missionnaire ! À tous, j’accorde volontiers la Bénédiction apostolique.

Mit diesen österlichen Gedanken grüße ich von Herzen alle Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. In besonderer Weise heiße ich eine Gruppe von Dozenten und Studierenden der Universität Erfurt willkommen. Euch allen und Euren Lieben daheim sowie denen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich gerne den Apostolischen Segen.

Saúdo cordialmente os presentes e ouvintes de língua portuguesa, nomeadamente um grupo de peregrinos vindos de Portugal, com votos de paz e de alegria, e que Deus vos conceda, como fruto da Páscoa de Cristo, a abundância dos bens do Espírito Santo! Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Saludo a los fieles de lengua española; en especial a los Seminaristas de Barbastro, así como a los grupos provenientes de distintas parroquias de Cartagena, Albacete, Petrola, Murcia y Valencia; a la Asociación de Amas de Casa, de Pego, así como a los alumnos de los Colegios alicantinos aquí presentes; también a los peregrinos de Ciudad Juarez (México) y a los estudiantes de la Escuela Italiana de Bogotá. Muy buenos días de Pascua a todos.

"De Heer is werkelijk verrezen, Hij is aan Simon verschenen" (Lc 24,34). Met deze woorden uit het Evangelie volgens Lucas groet ik nu alle Belgische en Nederlandse pelgrims. Moge uw bedevaart naar de graven van de Apostelen in het Paasoctaaf u allen sterken in uw christelijke roeping, een gave van de verrezen Christus! Van harte verleen ik u de Apostolische Zegen. Geloofd zij Jezus Christus!

Isten hozott Benneteket, kedves magyar hívek. Húsvét hetében naponta ujjongunk, Urunk Feltámadásának örvendezünk. A Feltámadott Krisztus ereje legyen veletek e héten és otthon a hétköznapok során. Erre adom apostoli áldásomat. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Srdačnim riječima dobrodošlice obraćam se nazočnim hrvatskim hodočasničkim skupinama iz Zagreba, Splita, Dubrovnika, Metkovića, Svete Nedjelje, Siska, Mostara, Wuppertala i Münchena. Predragi, pozdravljajući vas, žarko želim da svjetlo Krista uskrsloga prosvjetljuje vaš život i vaša srca ispunja radošću i nadom. Vama i vašim obiteljima udjeljujem apostolski blagoslov. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

*****

Rinnovo i miei cordiali auguri di Buona Pasqua ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i fedeli dell'Abbazia territoriale della Santissima Trinità di Cava dei Tirreni che, accompagnati dall'Abate Padre Benedetto Maria Chianetta, sono venuti con la statua della Madonna Avvocata, la quale visiterà le parrocchie della Diocesi.

Saluto, altresì, i novelli Diaconi della Compagnia di Gesù con i loro Superiori e familiari, ed invoco su ognuno di essi una copiosa effusione di doni celesti, a conferma dei loro generosi propositi di fedeltà a Cristo.

Saluto, poi, i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli presenti, come di consueto, a quest'incontro settimanale.

Carissimi giovani - e specialmente voi, numerosi ragazzi e ragazze appartenenti a diverse parrocchie e oratori dell'Arcidiocesi ambrosiana, che fate quest'anno la vostra "Professione di fede" - siate entusiasti protagonisti nella Chiesa e nella società, e con la vostra fedeltà al Vangelo contribuite alla costruzione della civiltà dell'amore, che si fonda su Cristo morto e risorto per noi.

Carissimi malati, mentre rivolgo un pensiero affettuoso a ciascuno di voi, auguro di cuore che la luce della Risurrezione illumini e sostenga la vostra quotidiana sofferenza, e la renda feconda a beneficio dell'intera umanità.

E a voi, carissimi sposi novelli, chiedo di attingere ogni giorno dal Mistero pasquale la forza e la gioia per un amore sincero ed inesauribile.

Con tali auspici, vi benedico tutti di cuore."