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Psalm 85 (86)

A poor man's prayer in time of trouble
“Blessed be God, who comforts us in all our sorrows” (2 Cor 1:3-4).

Turn your ear, O Lord, and give answer
  for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am faithful;
  save the servant who trusts in you.

You are my God, have mercy on me, Lord,
  for I cry to you all the day long.
Give joy to your servant, O Lord,
  for to you I lift up my soul.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
  full of love to all who call.
Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer
  and attend to the sound of my voice.

In the day of distress I will call
  and surely you will reply.
Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
  nor work to compare with yours.

All the nations shall come to adore you
  and glorify your name, O Lord:
for you are great and do marvellous deeds,
  you who alone are God.

Show me, Lord, your way
  so that I may walk in your truth.
  Guide my heart to fear your name.

I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart
  and glorify your name for ever;
for your love to me has been great:
  you have saved me from the depths of the grave.

The proud have risen against me;
  ruthless men seek my life;
  to you they pay no heed.

But you, God of mercy and compassion,
  slow to anger, O Lord,
abounding in love and truth,
  turn and take pity on me.

O give your strength to your servant
  and save your handmaid’s son.
Show me a sign of your favour
  that my foes may see to their shame
  that you console me and give me your help.

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on Psalm 85
General Audience, Wednesday 23 October 2002 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

Week III, Wednesday Lauds: Prayer to God in affliction
v 1-2.11.16-17

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Psalm 85 [86] just recited, which will be the theme of our reflection, offers an impressive description of the Psalmist. He comes before God with these words: I am "your servant" and "the son of your handmaid" (v. 16). Certainly, the expression can belong to the language of court ceremonial, but was used to indicate the servant adopted as a son by the head of a family or tribe. In this light the Psalmist, who defines himself as "the faithful" of the Lord (cf. v. 2), feels he is bound to God by a bond, not just of obedience, but also of familiarity and communion. For this reason his prayer expresses confident abandonment and hope.

Let us now follow this prayer which the Liturgy of Lauds sets out for us at the beginning of a day that will probably bring with it not just work and fatigue, but also misunderstanding and problems.

2. The Psalm begins with an intense appeal which the Psalmist directs to the Lord, trusting in his love (cf. vv. 1-7). At the end he expresses again the certainty that the Lord is a "God of mercy, compassionate, slow to anger, full of love, faithful God" (v. 15; cf. Ex 34,6). The repeated and convinced expressions of confidence reveal a faith that is intact and pure with an act of abandonment to the "Lord, good ... full of love to all who call on him" (Ps 85 [86],5).

At the centre of the Psalm, a hymn is sung to the Lord that alternates feelings of thanksgiving with a profession of faith in the works of salvation that God displays before the peoples (cf. vv. 8-13).

3. Against every temptation to idolatry, the Psalmist proclaims the absolute uniqueness of God (cf. v. 8). In the end he expresses the bold hope that one day "all the nations" shall adore the God of Israel (v. 9). This wonderful prospect finds its fulfillment in the Church of Christ because he sent his apostles to teach "all nations" (Mt 28,19). No one but the Lord can offer a full liberation because all depend on him as creatures and all must turn to him in an attitude of adoration (cf. Ps 85 [86],9). In fact, he manifests in the cosmos and in history his wonderful works, that give witness to his absolute lordship (cf. v. 10).

At this point the Psalmist presents himself before God with an intense and pure appeal: "Show me, Lord, your way so that I may walk in your truth; give me a simple heart to fear your name" (v. 11). The petition to be able to know the will of God is wonderful as is the prayer to obtain the gift of "a simple heart" like that of a child, who without duplicity and calculation entrusts himself fully to the Father to direct him on the path of life.

4. Then, from the lips of the faithful flows praise of the merciful God who does not allow him to fall into despair and death, evil and sin (cf. vv. 12-13; Ps 15,10-11).

Psalm 85 is a prayer that is dear to Judaism, that inserted it into the liturgy of one of the most important solemnities, Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. The Book of the Apocalypse, in turn, extracted a verse from it (cf. v. 9), placing it in the glorious heavenly liturgy at the heart of the "song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb": "All nations shall come and worship you" and the Apocalypse adds: "for your [just] judgments have been revealed" (Apoc 15,4).

St Augustine dedicated a long and passionate commentary to our psalm in his Expositions on the Psalms transforming it into a song of Christ and of the Christian. The Latin translation, in v. 2, in conformity with the Greek version of the Septuagint instead of the term "faithful" uses the word "holy one": "Preserve my life for I am holy". In reality, only Christ is holy. However, St Augustine reasons, even the Christian can apply these words to himself: "I am holy for you have sanctified me; because I received, not because I had [it of myself]; because you gave it to me, not because I merited it". Therefore, "every Christian by himself, therefore also the whole Body of Christ may say it, may cry everywhere, while it bears tribulations, many temptations and offences: "Preserve my soul because I am holy. Save your servant, my God, who hopes in you'. See, this holy man is not proud since he puts his trust in God" (Esposizioni sui Salmi, vol. II, Rome 1970, p. 1251. For an English translation, cf. Expositions on the Book of Psalms, vol. IV, Oxford 1850, p. 189).

5. The holy Christian opens himself to the universality of the Church and prays with the Psalmist: "All the nations that you have created shall come and adore you, O Lord" (Ps 85 [86],9). Augustine comments: "All the nations in the one Lord are one people, this is true oneness. As there is the Church and churches, and those are churches which are also the Church, so that is a "people' which was peoples; formerly, peoples, many peoples, now only one people. Why only one people? Because one faith, one hope, one charity, one expectation. Finally, why one people if only one country? Our country is heavenly, our country is Jerusalem.... This people from east to west, from north to the sea, is extended through the four quarters of the whole world" (ibid., p. 1269).

In this universal light our liturgical prayer is transformed into a breath of praise and a hymn of glory to the Lord in the name of every creature."


"I extend a special greeting to the pilgrims from Gibraltar, accompanied by their Bishop, and to the members of the Cathedral Choir from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s audience — in particular those from England, Wales, Ireland, Gibraltar, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America — I invoke grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

J’accueille cordialement les pèlerins francophones, en particulier le Grand Séminaire du diocèse d’Aix et d’Arles, avec son archevêque Mgr Claude Feidt. Je salue également le groupe d’étudiants de Bourbourg, le lycée Notre-Dame de la Compassion de Pontoise, ainsi que la Communauté du «Verbe de vie». Que le Christ vous accompagne chaque jour, pour que vous répondiez avec générosité à ses appels et pour que vous soyez des pierres vivantes de son Église!

Mit einem frohen Gruß heiße ich die Pilger und Besucher willkommen, die aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache nach Rom gekommen sind. Das Gebet sei Euch ein treuer Begleiter auf allen Wegen! Es festige Eure Gemeinschaft mit Gott, dem Herrn und Schöpfer des Alls.

Saúdo cordialmente quantos participam a esta Audiência. A todos desejo felicidades, com os favores de abundantes graças celestes. Em particular, saúdo os visitantes de Portugal e um grupo de brasileiros do Ceará. Sede bem-vindos! E que desta visita a Roma, leveis avivada a consciência de serdes Igreja missionária nas vossas comunidades e famílias, para levar a todos a mensagem de salvação de Cristo, Redentor dos homens. Que Deus vos abençoe!

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española. En especial a los Sacerdotes de Valencia que celebran sus Bodas de Oro; a los Religiosos Mercedarios, así como a la Federación Española de Comunidades de Regantes. También a los miembros de la Universidad de Concepción, de Entre Ríos. A todos gracias por vuestra presencia y atención.

Nu wil ik een hartelijke groet richten tot alle Nederlandse pelgrims. Ik begroet in het bijzonder de gelovigen uit het bisdom Breda, vergezeld van de Bisschop, Monseigneur Martinus Petrus Muskens. Ook groet ik de Commissaris van de Koningin en alle andere aanwezige burgerlijke autoriteiten. Beminde gelovigen, bij gelegenheid van het honderdvijftigjarig bestaan van uw bisdom bent u naar Rome gekomen om de Opvolger van Petrus te ontmoeten. Uw bedevaart naar het centrum van het christendom heeft als thema: Het geloof van ons doopsel. Moge deze dagen, dichtbij de graven van de Apostelen, in ieder een hernieuwde bewustwording van de onschatbare waarde van het geloof opwekken, waarvan talrijke martelaren getuigenis hebben afgelegd met hun bloed. Ik spoor u eveneens aan om onophoudelijk te bidden voor nieuwe priesterroepingen, opdat uw parochies de plaatsen bij uitstek blijven waar de gelovigen de gave van het heil ontvangen door middel van het onontbeerlijke dienstwerk van de gewijde priester. Van harte verleen ik daarom aan U en aan al uw dierbaren de Apostolische Zegen.

Srdečně vítám členy Salesiánské rodiny Dona Boska! V tomto roce, který jsem zasvětil svatému Růženci, vybízím všechny věřící k novému ocenění společenství s Pannou Marií, právě prostřednictvím této vznešené modlitby. K tomu vám uděluji apoštolské požehnání! Chvála Kristu!

Zo srdca pozdravujem pútnikov zo Slovenska: z Kanianky, Komárna, Košíc, Valalikov a z Kendíc, ako aj členov profesorského zboru Univerzity Komenského v Bratislave. Drahí bratia a sestry, v týchto dňoch sme pozvaní viac uvažovať o misijnom poslaní Cirkvi i každého jej člena. Aj vy ste povolaní evanjelizovať to prostredie, v ktorom žijete. Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!

Szeretettel köszöntöm a magyar híveket, akik Gödöllôrôl és Tiszaújvárosból érkeztek. Isten hozott Benneteket! Ma ünnepeljük Kapisztrán Szent János ünnepét, aki életét a keresztény Magyarországért adta. Az ô közbenjárását kérve, szívesen adom apostoli áldásomat. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Su džiaugsmu sveikinu piligrimus lietuvius! Brangieji, Viešpats kviečia Bažnyčią į atnaujintą maldą. Ypatingai šiais Rožinio metais jus kviečiu naujai atrasti Rožinio maldos galią prašant taikos ir ramybės pasauliui bei šeimoms. Viešpats jus visus tesustiprina ir tepalaimina! Garbė Jėzui Kristui!

Вітаю міжнародну групу форматорок українських Сестер Служебниць Непорочної Діви Марії, які прибули з різних країн свiту.Бажаю Вам Божого Благословення та успіхів у цій важливій відповідальній справі. Слава Ісусу Христу.

Rivolgo ora un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i ragazzi del dopo-cresima della Diocesi di Faenza-Modigliana, i loro genitori ed educatori, qui convenuti con il loro Vescovo Monsignor Italo Castellani. Saluto, inoltre, gli ammalati, i disabili e gli anziani di Alife-Caiazzo, accompagnati dai volontari della Caritas e guidati dal loro Pastore Monsignor Pietro Farina.

Today the liturgy reminds us of the Franciscan priest St John of Capistrano, who gave himself with great generosity for the salvation of souls. May his glorious evangelical witness sustain you, dear young people, in your dedication to daily fidelity to Christ; may it encourage you, dear sick persons, to follow Christ on the path of trial and suffering; may it help you, dear newly-weds, to make of your home the place for the living meeting with the love of God and of your neighbour.