How could we sing the song of the LORD
in a foreign land?
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This quote from Psalm 137 may seem like a quaint reminiscence from history, but I think it is actually a foundational aspiration of the spiritual life, and as such, a worthy aspiration for Lent.
One of the important principles of this life is that we are not home yet; we are wayfarers in this world. Our life is a journey back to our God who made us for himself, and, as Saint Augustine says so well, “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee (God).” And so it is with a great sense of longing, and perhaps a little frustration, that the psalmist cries out, “How could we sing the song of the LORD in a foreign land?”
For the Jews, the place for true worship was the Temple in Jerusalem. And so, when they were exiled to Babylon, not only did they lose their homes and their land, but also, in a sense, their relationship with God. They could not have true worship in a foreign land, so no matter how much they were urged to do so by their captors, they couldn’t sing the Lord’s song.
For us, the experience is different of course, but in some ways also similar. We too are not where we should be, and please God, not where we will be. We are on this journey we call life, and we long to bring that journey along side the road our God lays out for us to lead us back to him. That way has us travel, particularly during Lent, along the Way of the Cross. We know that there is so much that we have to scourge out of us, nail to the cross and die to. But it’s easier not to journey along that road.
And so we follow other paths. These lead us far away from where we were made to be. They put us in that foreign land that is so far from the kingdom God promised us. This land is so filled with distractions that we rarely have time to think of God, let alone worship him in spirit and truth. And so it would be well for our souls to cry out, “How could we sing the song of the LORD in a foreign land?”
Lent is an opportunity for the journey back. There is nowhere we can go that is beyond the reach of our God. All we have to do is take his hand and be pulled up out of the waters that engulf us, be pulled back to the right path and take up the journey once again. It won’t be an easy journey; it never is for people of faith. Jesus had to experience his Good Friday before he came to Easter Sunday, and so will we in this life. But we never have to travel this road alone.
If you’ve found that Lent hasn’t been what you hoped it would be, it’s not too late to take our Lord’s hand and head the right way. There is still time for fasting, almsgiving and prayer, and no matter how late it may be, these will still be food for our journey. This week we have our parish mission, with opportunity for confession after the mission on Monday and Tuesday. It is my prayer that you will find this week a helpful one if you need to turn your Lent around.
And may we all one day together sing the Lord’s song in the Land he has made for us!
Yours in Christ and His Blessed Mother,
Father Pat Mulcahy