Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God
Through the Prayers of the Church
This online supplemental material coordinates with the lesson that can be found on pages 108–111 of Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church. The study is based on The Revised Grail Psalms, the English translation of the Psalms approved by the Church for liturgical use. In addition to differences in wording of the biblical texts, other translations also may vary in the way that they number some Psalms and verses.
welcome to our study of the Book of the Psalms
We invite groups and individuals doing this 28-lesson Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible study to take advantage of our supplemental online study pages. Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church has been granted an imprimatur and can be purchased from our website shop. If you have a question for the author, click on the “ask us your question” button on our supplemental pages.
a pro-life prayer from thousands of years ago
For this lesson, Tami Palladino has drawn an infant in the womb, reflecting the Psalmist’s understanding of God’s omniscience described in Psalm 139:13: “For it was you who formed my inmost being, knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God is in charge of every detail of our existence, and he rules over all life and death. Even though men and women are unable to remember anything about our time in our mother’s womb, the Psalmist is confident that our entire existence was willed by God—and that God continues to protect us throughout our lives. Consider whether you share the Psalmist’s confidence in God’s loving care and protection. Click on the image to enlarge Tami’s illustration, which appears on page 109 of Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church.
read the Catechism—how idolatry threatens our relationship with God
Paragraphs 2113 and 2114 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church address the inherent dangers associated with worshiping anyone or anything other than God.
2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Many martyrs died for not adoring “the Beast,” refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.
2114 Human life finds its unity in the adoration of the one God. The commandment to worship the Lord alone integrates man and saves him from an endless disintegration. Idolatry is a perversion of man’s innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who “transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God.”
you could look it up—equality with God
In the Letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that Jesus didn’t grasp at equality with God. To learn more, read Lost in Translation, an online column in which Turning to God’s Word author Matthew Phelps helps readers connect with ancient ideas expressed in the original Scriptures. New entries are posted on Tuesdays. If you’d like to receive Matthew’s comments about biblical languages by email each week, there’s a sign-up form next to the searchable archives. You also might read paragraph 705 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn why it’s important to distinguish between image and likeness.
WHAT DO YOU THINK about the connection between memory & worship?
Because we know God to be omniscient, the idea that God has a memory comes as no surprise. A more radical concept, however, is the connection made throughout the Scriptures between the human memory and liturgy. Take a few minutes to read “How God Remembers His People” on page 110 of Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church. All of our significant worship practices are founded on memories of the ways in which God has shown his love for his people. Indeed, it’s impossible for us to worship God without relying on such memories, which represent an important way in which men and women can share God’s own attribute of memory.
? What are some of your most important memories of God’s loving care at work in your own life?
? What other divine attributes has God given to his people?
? What is one thing that you can do today tied to a memory of your relationship to Jesus Christ?
Q & A—reading difficult passages in Scripture
Even without looking, it’s easy to find many conflicting interpretations of challenging Bible passages. All of them can’t be right, and the Church makes only a very rare few pronouncements on the meaning of specific verses in the Bible. The rest of the time it’s up to us to use our common sense when deciding whether an interpretation makes sense. The Church does offer this guidance—an interpretation of a specific Bible passage cannot disagree with Church teaching and it cannot contradict anything else written in the Scriptures.
Q: A participant in one of our Bible studies is concerned about an article that appeared in her local diocesan newspaper. That author argues that Old Testament texts in which God is shown to be arbitrary, heartless, and violent aren’t to be taken literally. (The specific texts mentioned in the article are from the twenty-fourth chapter of the Second Book of Samuel, the sixth chapter of the Book of Joshua, and the eleventh chapter of the Book of Judges.) Concerning such difficult passages, the author of the diocesan article writes: “Whenever they are read, they could be preceded by the kind of disclaimer we now often see at movies where we are told: No real animals died while making this film. So too, no real people die in these texts.” Our questioner can understand that some biblical texts may be exaggerated to make a point, but she has a hard time believing that no one was harmed. Matthew’s response appears below. Also of interest is this week’s Lost in Translation, a related discussion about the difference between exegesis and eisegesis, two methods of approaching Bible study.
A: This question centers around a few basic struggles we all have to work through as we learn to read and to study the Scriptures for ourselves. First, is everything we read in Scripture literal? This diocesan article lands on what I think is the only defensible position—that no, ultimately not every word of Scripture is factual in the same way that we might expect a newspaper or magazine article to be factual. The Bible is the living Word of God, which makes it unlike any other book or writing. This can be a hard thing for some people to wrap their minds around, especially when they’ve been catechized to accept the opposite. (To learn more, you can watch The Bible as the Living Word of God, a video from our 2015 Turning to God’s Word summer Bible study retreat at Conception Abbey.)
Once we accept that not every word is literal, we’re left with the problem of trying to figure out what to make of some of the more difficult passages. Basically the whole of scholarship on the Scriptures concerns itself with a number of questions relevant to this point, such as—When was a book written? By whom? For whom? What type of literature was it intended to be?
the text must be primary
As with all Scripture study, when addressing these questions, the text must be primary. The author of the diocesan article certainly overstates when he asserts that God killed no one in the Old Testament. That position contradicts way too much of Scripture to be very plausible. God created a world in which he allowed death to exist and to come to all people. What’s the death of 70,000 in that context? What’s the difference for God whether someone dies at age 30 or at age 80?
the Catholic faith has evolved
The other key question or understanding we all have to come to terms with in reading the Scriptures is that our faith as we know it evolved. There are terrible things that happened in our past that paved the way for the coming of Christ, and God was involved through them all. Taken as a whole, the Scriptures show an evolution, and the things that happen always ultimately serve a purpose. True understanding of the Scriptures involves understanding this development and learning to see the same God in the Old Testament that we see revealed by Jesus Christ.
The thinking behind the diocesan article reflects an easy mistake to make. When we read something in the Bible that is incompatible with our understanding of God, one or the other has to change. The author chose, by convoluted means, to change the text. Many others throughout history have done the same. Martin Luther went so far as to try to remove passages not consistent with his view of God. The greater and more rewarding challenge is to be able to adapt our view of God to accommodate and exist harmoniously with the Scriptures. This changing and expanding of our understanding of God is, I think, the primary purpose of Bible study and should be our goal whenever we read Scripture.
read the Catechism—the transcendent nature of God
Paragraph 239 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church cautions men and women against thinking of God in strictly human terms.
239 By calling God “Father,” the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. We ought to recall that God transcends the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: He is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is Father as God is Father.
Many of our Catholic study groups like to conclude their discussions with a prayer based on the scriptural focus of their lesson. If you’re uncomfortable composing your own Bible-based prayers, you can follow our four easy steps. If you prefer, you can pray any of the Psalms in this lesson, or you can use the following short prayer.
O God, you remember all things.
Help us so to value our relationship with you
that we become incapable of forgetting
the marvelous ways in which you demonstrate your love.
Teach us always to be conscious of your kindness and mercy
that we may worship you in spirit and truth
as directed by your Son, Jesus Christ,
in whose name we pray. Amen.
start a Turning to God’s Word Bible study
Thank you for your interest in Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church. A wealth of information about beginning a Turning to God’s Word individual or group Bible study can be found on this website at start a Bible study. Tami, Matthew, and I are available to answer your questions about Turning to God’s Word and to offer support. You may use this email to contact us directly. —Jennifer