Psalm 23 is by far the most beloved and well know of all the psalms.
In Psalm 23, We sing and we pray,
“You are my Shepard. Nothing more shall I want”
Do we really believe that? Do we feel that?
We don’t want wealth?
“OK, but that’s just material stuff”
What about the health of someone we love? Surely we want that.
Or the gift of faith for someone who has fallen away.
Or the grace to forgive someone, the grace to forgive ourselves?
Rather humorously ironic, this could be the stuff of satire: that psalm 23 is so popular.
Because if we really prayed that psalm honestly, and truthfully,
it would be frightful.
Psalm 23 is not a psalm of comfort at all.
The very first line of Psalm 23, “YOU are my Shepard,” seriously.
How many of us take comfort in giving up our life, let alone our very person, to someone else?
Only if we absolutely have to and there’s no other choice, right?
In a similar way, St Paul writes,
“Only this I want: to know the Lord and to bear His cross.”
We sing that too, but can we really pray those words along with St. Paul?
All we want is to know the Lord and to bear His cross? What does that mean?
St Ignasious, the founder of the society of Jesus and the Jesuits prayed
“Give me ONLY your love and your grace. That’s enough for me.”
Would God’s love and grace be enough for us?
When Father Randy Phillips was doing research for his dissertation, he was privileged to have total access to all of the Rev Dr Martin Luther Kings unpublished writings. And he came across a sermon.
It was entitled. “But If Not.”
It is based on the third chapter of the book of Daniel, which is the story of three young men who are tossed into the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. As they stand before the King of Babylon they tell him, “we are confident that our God will deliver us!”
And the Rev King, in his sermon, rightly points us to the very next sentence they would say:
“But if God does not deliver us, [but if not] we will still worship and follow only the Lord our God.”
If God does not deliver us, it doesn’t change a thing.
Here is a faith that is based not on results, or rewards, or “what’s in it for me.” But a faith that rests completely on the conviction of God’s unconditional and immeasurable love.
The love that waits for us.
The love that is already ours.
May this also be our firm and steadfast faith.
And so my friends, as you pray for this steadfast faith, please also pray along with the church:
For good shepards in our church
For ears open to listen, and hearts full of mercy and compassion.
For those who feed the hungry
For those who care for souls
For those who struggle with impatience, exhaustion, or apathy.
For an end to division and discord in our church, our nation, and our families.
For all who grapple with addictions, loneliness, and loss
For an end to abortion, the death penalty, and all sins against life
For all who have died
We pray to the Lord.
But if not, He is still Good.
This text is an adaptation of a homily from Father Randy Phillips given on July 19th, 2015. Following four years at Sacred Heart Seminary Fr. Randy was sent to Rome to study theology. This resulted in his earning a doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1988. We are currently blessed to call him our Pastor at St. Blase Catholic Church in Sterling Heights, Michigan. In addition to serving as pastor, Randy is also an adjunct instructor of theology for Siena Heights University and for SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary.
To learn more about our parish, please visit our website.
To hear more of Father Randy’s homilies for yourself, podcasts are available here.