Song 2 - 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 2: Audio | Commentary
The Servant of the Lord*
1Hear me, coastlands,
listen, distant peoples.a
Before birth the LORD called me,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.*
2He made my mouth like a sharp-edged sword,
concealed me, shielded by his hand.
He made me a sharpened arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
3He said to me, You are my servant,
in you, Israel,* I show my glory.
4Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
for nothing and for naught spent my strength,
Yet my right is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.b
5For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
That Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
I am honored in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
6It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;c
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.*
7Thus says the LORD,
the redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
To the one despised, abhorred by the nations,
the slave of rulers:
When kings see you, they shall stand up,
and princes shall bow down
Because of the LORD who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.d
The Servant of the Lord
The best armor one can give anyone sent on a mission is a clear sense of identity. The road is always difficult and times of discouragement and self-doubt lurk around every corner. What sustains under such circumstances is a clear knowledge of who sent us and what we were sent to do. Lacking that, one easily slips into confusion, maybe even into listlessness and fear. We might not be sure of the Servant’s identity, but the Servant himself is quite clear about who he is: He is God’s chosen instrument, called from the womb to serve in good times and in bad. And the times have not been all good. The Servant is now God’s prophet with a tongue as sharp as well-honed steel. God has been his helper and protector during his service, but there is little to show for all his toil. However, the Servant is not demoralized by his outward failure. He still knows whose he is and in whose name he serves.
In truth, not much else matters. When we experience worldly failure, we can wallow in depression and allow the world’s judgment to define us, or we can remember whose opinion really counts. The Servant knows: “I am honored in the sight of the Lord, / and my God is now my strength.” It is so easy to lose heart when it’s the world’s opinion that we value, so easy to surrender when others mock or shun us. If only the Servant’s vision could be ours: God called me from the womb, he says, and my recompense is from him!
With the balance such vision provides, the Servant is able to hear a further, greater call from God that will send him down a road as difficult as the one he trod before. It is not enough for you to bring my word to Jacob and Israel, God tells him, “I will make you a light to the nations.” That the entire world would know the salvation of God was a startling truth that Israel was unprepared to hear. But despite scorn and abuse, the Servant will bring God’s message to kings of all the nations and they will hear and heed his word. Through the centuries, that word has reached our day and touched our hearts. And through us it will continue to spread “to the ends of the earth.”
Questions for Reflection
Have you ever let the awareness that God has known you from your mother’s womb penetrate your heart? Does the realization bolster your confidence or does something in you deflect it?
God’s Servant is a “suffering” Servant. Why do you think suffering is so often a reality in the lives of God’s chosen ones?
When you think of the suffering you have endured, do you perceive a salvific component in it?
When dealing with struggle and failure, what helps you to remember that God’s opinion of us is far more important than the world’s?