Summary: Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost September 30, 2001 Year C Psalm 146:1-10 Title: “Praise is recognition of what really is, acknowledgment not added knowledge.”
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost September 30, 2001 Year C
Title: “Praise is recognition of what really is, acknowledgment not added knowledge.”
This is the first of five hymns of praise which conclude the Psalter, called “Hallel Psalms, “Hallel” is Hebrew for “praise.” and part, along with Psalm 145, of the daily morning prayer in the synagogue, even today. Although it is indebted to earlier psalms and prayer-traditions verse two and Psalm 104:33; v. 3 and Psalm 118:9; v. 7 and Psalm 103:6; and v. 8b and Psalm 145:14, this psalm is postexilic in composition. The beatitude in verse five, and the comparison of mortal humans with the Immortal God reflect a source friendly to the outlook and expressions of Wisdom Literature.
In verse one, Alleluia: The word is almost a transliteration of the Hebrew, hallelu-yah, which simply means “Praise Yah(weh).”
“To praise” is to recognize a quality or qualities in another, usually not so obvious until they are stated out loud. It is barely distinguishable from “thanks,” for the recognition or acknowledgement is intended to evoke gratitude on the part of the speaker or hearer or both. While this word is used of humans, especially in exalting beauty and truth, it is most frequently reserved for God. In the psalms it is quite often put in the imperative mood, signifying that praising God is a necessity. It is tantamount to an affirmation of life itself. Indeed, human existence and praise of God are so closely related that the very purpose of life is said to affirm the God-given gift constantly.
In verse two, Praise the Lord, my soul: The psalmist exhorts himself, talks himself into praising God for it is fitting. The beginning of formal prayer is a decision to pray. Here, it is a decision to praise God throughout life. Indeed, the truly pious Jew considered the praise of God, the recognition of his constant but hidden, loving presence, to be the very purpose of life. Even though the psalmist is addressing himself, verse ten, reveals that he speaks for as well as to the entire congregation, teaching and admonishing them by his summaries of God’s behavior. The individual Jew did not make so sharp a distinction between himself and his entire community.
In verse three, put no trust in princes: “Princes,” nedibim in Hebrew, stands for human power without God. “Princes” would be a term for “men of excellence,” but not necessarily moral excellence.
In mere mortals: Lit, “in a son of Adam, a generic term for mortal man.” Human beings, on their own power, no matter how “excellent,” well positioned, well endowed, etc, can deliver nothing without or outside of the power of God. Human beings are subject to sudden collapse and death. God is not.
In verse four, they return to the earth: At death mortals return to the stuff of which they are made, stuff made by God in the first place. Anything they did in between was only permitted by, if not approved by, God. There is a play on words here. The word for dust in Hebrew is ’adamah, while ‘adam is the word for man.