LITURGY CORNER By Rory Cooney
“[I]f you believe in God omnipresent, then you must believe everything that comes into your life, person or event, must have something of God in it to be experienced and loved; not hated.” ― Elizabeth Goudge, Green Dolphin Street
Psalm 34 is used a lot in the liturgy. It’s one of the core of “common responsorial psalms” in the psalter, that is, psalms that can be used at any Mass in place of the “proper” psalm of the day. At Saint Anne the last two weekends, we used a version of the psalm that I wrote about 35 years ago. We also have used, during this “Bread of Life” month, a setting by Tom Kendzia and another by Marty Haugen. In addition, John Foley’s song The Cry of the Poor is a setting of Psalm 34 with a different antiphon (chorus), as is my Every Morning in Your Eyes, which puts Psalm 34 in the context of the wedding liturgy, which is another place that it lives.
When our psalm sings, ʺTaste and see the goodness of the Lord,ʺ we should try to keep in mind which Lord the psalmist is so enthusiastic about. It is the paschal God, the God of Passover, the God of freedom who sides with the oppressed. We can taste and see this God because everything created shines with the freedom and love that made the universe . “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord,” says Psalm 33, or to put it in the words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ,
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil …
The God whom we “taste and see” doesnʹt grasp onto divinity, but pours self out to come among us, to show us, in an utterly human body and soul in Jesus of Nazareth, what God is really like. In Jesus, I AM shows us how to live with compassion and healing, and how the walls we put up between each other with money, power, property and greed are nothing but illusions that will dissipate when we just turn around from one god to the Other, when we turn from death to life. So, using the words of our psalm,
When we bless this Lord at all times, the ʺlowly will hear and be glad.ʺ
When we seek this Lord, the paschal God, the god of freedom and love, then this Lord will answer, and deliver us from all our distress.
When we look to this God, the paschal God, our faces will not be ashamed.
When we cry out to this God, the paschal God, then
the poor are rescued from distress.
It is this God whom we taste and see in the Eucharist. It is this God who says, in Jesus Christ, I AM. I AM the bread of life. I AM the living manna. And it is into this God, in Jesus Christ, that we are baptized, and whose life we share not through any good we do or any merit of our own, but because of the loving kindness and the call of God. It is this God whose spirit, in baptism, makes us into the body of Christ, to keep proclaiming by our lives the gospel of compassion and service. Itʹs for us to show by our lives a different way, demonstrating a way of living together based on service, compassion, freedom, invitation. That is the goodness that we can ʺtaste and seeʺ when we encounter this Lord in the body that is this church and in the body that is the Eucharist. That is the goodness that we are, that enables us, that inspires, in-spirits us to sing,
I myself am the bread of life.
You and I are the bread of life,
Taken and blessed, broken and shared by Christ That the world may live.
We begin to taste and see the goodness of the paschal God, of one another, of a world that God is bringing to be, when we live as the daughters and sons of Abba, and come together around the supper table of the Passover lamb.
So at Communion, let us say ʺamenʺ to who we are, the beloved children of God, committed to Godʹs empire of peace, justice, and freedom, and ʺtaste and see the goodness of the Lord,ʺ both at the table of the Eucharist, and at the table of the world.
Partially excerpted from “Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord,” from my “Gentle Reign” blog, 8/17/15.