The readings for this Sunday are generally used on Sundays when we have somebody coming into the faith, a catechumenate, or a candidate who will be fully initiated into the faith. We don’t have that this year, and I hope we do next year. I thought reflecting on what they might hear would still be good. These are people who are preparing to come into the faith. Psalm 23 is what I want to reflect on today. It was used in the very early church for people who were coming into the faith. They used Psalm 23 to teach them about the Eucharist, Mass, and about Liturgy. I just wanted to go through them; this will be a little bit more of a teaching homily, some of the points of Psalm 23, and how the early church fathers used that to help us see the mystery we’re experiencing in this Eucharist.
I’m sure we all know it’s a very beloved psalm, but through the lens of the Eucharist, it’s pretty amazing as well. It begins with, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Every church that has Mass has a priest, and the priest has the presider’s chair. When we gather together, it’s like the shepherd gathering all of the sheep together at the end of the night so that they can be with one another, be fed, and be kept safe. Once a week, we have this great privilege to all come together to gather here with the Good Shepherd at the Eucharist.
“In verdant pastures, He gives me repose.” Sundays are a day of rest, so we’re called to rest this Sunday. It also is a time to rest in the church. Right now, you are just sitting and reposting. All you have to do right now at Mass is relax and take what God wants to give you.
“Beside restful waters, He leads me.” Can you hear the baptismal font? The restful waters are like a gentle streaming brook, so we come into the church through the baptismal font and bless ourselves with that holy water.
“He refreshes my soul.” He renews us and refreshes us every time we come to Mass on Sunday.
“He guides me in the right path for His namesake.” We, like sheep, have a tendency to get lost. If we don’t come to Mass every Sunday and constantly hear the word of God, God’s command, and God’s law, we will get lost. We will quickly and easily go off the path.
“Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil, for you are at my side.” Outside of this church is a dark valley. The world is a dark valley. Sometimes all that means for us is just walking through that dark valley, just knowing if I can make it till Sunday if I can get till Sunday and resist the enemy until then, I will be okay.
“For you are at my side.” There are four ways that Christ is present to us in the Eucharist. One is of the priest’s person, two is when we hear the word of God proclaimed, the third is the Eucharist, and the fourth is the person sitting next to you, the gathered assembly. So, the Lord is at your side right now. The person sitting next to you is the Lord’s presence with you.
“With your rod and your staff that give me courage.” The shepherds had a rod, a shorter staff with a kind of a ball on end, and that would be used to keep away the prey and the wolves. Also, the staff and the staff would be used for correction as well. Sometimes at Mass, we have corrections. God corrects us and gets us back on the right path. Also, right here, it’s just nailing the enemy. Jesus is keeping the enemy at bay from us when we come to Mass. So, we take great courage in that.
“You spread a table before me.” Obviously, this is the Eucharist. At every Mass, He spreads this banquet before us where we receive His body, blood, soul, and divinity right here. There are still people that are coming back from the pandemic. A number of people are still not back yet, but we’re trying to work on that. They will always say to me, “Father, it’s not the same watching it on TV.” Yes, that’s the point. This is where we receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus.
“And you anoint my head with oil.” In baptism, you were anointed, the crown of your head was anointed with chrism, and your chest was anointed with oil, the oil of the catechumenate for protection. Both are to protect you from Satan and proclaim that you are a priest, prophet, and king. You are called to be those three things for our world today. Also, you received it at Confirmation. When your forehead was sealed with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, your head was anointed with oil. All of these are the Sacraments of Initiation. The summit is right here, which we celebrate in the Eucharist.
We have “my cup overflows.” We do have precious blood here at Mass. It’s wonderful that we can do this now, to have that available. God’s grace is always overflowing for us.
Then, finally, “only goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life.” At the end of Mass, the Deacon will say, “Go in peace,” We can go in peace because God’s goodness and kindness will follow us and go with us. We give thanks that we are able to come together fully initiated in this faith to receive the Eucharist. If you’re not fully initiated or haven’t received the first Communion or Confirmation, or Baptism, maybe you could be with us next year and celebrate the sacred mystery.