Song 1 - New American Bible, Revised Edition
The Seven Penitential Psalms
During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms. The penitential designation of these psalms dates from the seventh century. Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God’s forgiveness.
We are featuring here the newly released translations of the seven penitential psalms from the New American Bible, Revised Edition with reflections and discussion questions from Graziano Marcheschi, M.A. D.Min.
Song 1: Audio | Commentary
The Servant of the Lord
1Here is my servant* whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased.
Upon him I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations.a
2He will not cry out, nor shout,
nor make his voice heard in the street.
3A bruised reed* he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
4He will not grow dim or be bruised
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands* will wait for his teaching.
The Servant of the Lord
It is the voice of God we hear proudly introducing “my servant… with whom I am well pleased.” The painful destiny of this Servant isn’t mentioned in this brief song. Instead, like a soldier outfitted for battle or an explorer prepared for mission, the Servant is extolled for who he is and for the courage, patience, gentleness, and fidelity that will distinguish his service. Often, brave individuals volunteer for difficult missions, but God’s Servant was chosen. The hand of God is upon him and God’s own Spirit hovers over him. This Servant will not be an individualistic maverick getting the job done “his way.” He will be a gentle agent of God’s will, not shouting in the streets as was typical of prophets, but moving quietly and humbly among the people, distinguishing the weak from the strong, never breaking even a “bruised reed” because God’s Spirit sent him to heal and strengthen the weak, to mend and restore the hearts of all who are losing hope or have been cast aside by the rich and the mighty.
The text offers even an image of those who are too weak to raise their heads and burn with the light of faith. Because they cling too close to the wax, dimly burning wicks offer little light and the slightest breeze will extinguish them. Yet even these the Servant will not quench. He comes not to condemn the weak of heart and slow of faith but to invite them into the kingdom of God’s justice. Through the Servant’s ministry, the “bruised reed” will be strengthened and the “dimly burning wick” will be enflamed. The Servant himself will never wane or weaken; he will faithfully accomplish the will of the Lord and establish justice in the land.
Lent comes around each year to invite those of us who have grown weak or dim to hear afresh God’s promise and receive anew the Servant’s healing touch. The ends of the earth await his teaching and they will not be disappointed. And neither will the recesses of our hearts that await the warmth of his healing and reconciling love.
Questions for Reflection
In what ways have you experienced in your life the gentle, patient love of God?
What parts of you are “bruised” or “dimly burning?” Do these areas distance you from God or do they open you all the more to his merciful grace?
In what ways do you see the justice of God enfleshed on the earth? Where is it sorely lacking—both in your life and within society?
How might you share in the ministry of God’s Servant of healing and strengthening the weak and oppressed?