November 6, 2022 –
The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.”
Many Christians aren’t sure how to go about the practice of meditation. One difficulty arises from the fact that meditation always requires something to meditate upon: an idea or image of a person, event, or truth. But how, then, can the individual Christian decide what to fix his attention upon during daily meditation?
The simplest answer is found among the Scripture verses proclaimed at the current day’s Mass. The persons, events, and truths spoken about in a given Scripture verse can serve as the focus of Christian meditation.
Of course, even on a weekday there are three different passages of Scripture to choose from if you include the Responsorial Psalm. There are also the Entrance Antiphon and Communion Antiphon for the day’s Mass, which almost always are taken from Sacred Scripture. So in the midst of this wealth of Scripture passages at a simple weekday Mass, where does a Christian begin to meditate?
Tradition offers two suggestions. The first and perhaps most obvious is the Gospel Reading from that day’s Mass. In the four Gospel accounts, the Word made Flesh speaks directly to us through both words and works.
The other suggestion comes from the day’s Responsorial Psalm. The reason that the day’s Psalm is often suggested is that the psalms are poetry. They were originally composed to be sung. But even if we only read them, they’re lyric and are often easier to “break open”, as it were, than a Gospel passage that requires more background knowledge to comprehend it.
So if you decide to use the Psalms from Holy Mass to nurture your daily meditation, the most obvious place to start is the refrain of the day’s Responsorial Psalm. This refrain guides you through the course of the entire psalm, and presents a single theme that you can focus upon in meditation. As an illustration, consider the Responsorial Psalm’s refrain from this Sunday’s Mass.
“Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.” Why does the Church put this verse from Psalm 17 on our lips today, so close to the end of the Church year? This last month of the Church year means to alert you to what she calls the “last things”: Heaven and hell, death and judgment. For you who are a pilgrim on earth, all four of these lie in your future. They’re not past events, like the creation of Adam and Eve, the birth of Jesus, or the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Heaven and hell, death and judgment lie squarely before you in your future, although we have to make distinctions among them. Death and judgment are inevitable for each human person. But Heaven or hell are only possibilities, determined by whether one cooperates with God’s grace.
However, one of the difficulties in meditating on the “last things” is that they’re somewhat abstract. It’s easier to meditate upon them by relating each of them to the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time.
Likewise, the Second Coming of Jesus can help us focus concretely on the refrain of Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.” The Second Coming is often pictured in religious art as apocalyptic and frightening. It’s certainly natural to fear the reality of death and the possibility of eternal damnation.
Today’s Psalm, however, presents a future full of hope. With the Psalmist, we Christians eagerly hope for the Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus isn’t just some ancient guru about whom we read in dusty books, and whose example and teachings we strive to follow. Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
He is as alive now as He was two thousand years ago. Further, through the virtue of hope, we know that the joy open to us here and now as Christians is destined to be surpassed. The Psalmist speaks to the Lord of a future time: “when your glory appears”. Christians know that this verse refers to the glory of Jesus’ Second Coming. We not only wait for this second coming, but long for it, since when He comes, our “joy will be full”. That phrase—“my joy will be full”—speaks to man’s vocation in Christ: that is, to the fulfillment of human life as an adopted child of God the Father, called into the fullness of joy that is His Heavenly Liturgy.