Catholicism is a communal faith and Catholicism is also about personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
In different eras of Christian history one has sometimes been emphasised at the expense of the other. At these times we have forgotten that both personal relationship with Jesus and communal faith are essential for every Christian.
Without a daily personal experience of Jesus faith is reduced to an external adherence to the rules and rituals of an earthly institution. There are times too when our personal relationship with Jesus seems weak and distant. At these times the faith of the community sustains us and even carries us.
Healthy faith is both personal and communal.
One of the visible signs of Christian communion is our communal Sunday worship and our daily prayer using at least some prayers that are common among Christians. The Our Father is the best known of these, but there are other prayers including the 150 psalms of the Old Testament which are some of the most powerful, expressive and heart-felt prayers of all time.
The psalms include prayers for travellers and prayers for people who feel stuck or sick. Some psalms are known as wisdom psalms and others are prayed by people who feel foolish, powerless or fragile. There are psalms for those who want to give God thanks and praise, and others that express frustration and even anger at God.
These psalms are a central part of the Liturgy of the Church and every day contemplative monks and nuns head to the chapel seven times to pray these timeless prayers.
Today’s Mass psalm begins “Out of the Depths” (De Profundis) and was first prayed by one who felt as though they were in a hopeless and helpless situation. But note what happens as s/he continues to pray: after beginning in the depths, an acknowledgement of the forgiveness and mercy of God arises and the prayer concludes with confidence that nothing is a problem for God who writes straight with the crooked lines of our lives.
If the psalms were simply personal prayers, I would not pray out of the depths on a day when I felt on top of the world. But on such a day I pray this lament for those who are feeling as though they are in the pit. When I am feeling great, I pray this psalm on behalf of those who may be struggling so much that they cannot even lift their gaze to God. On days when I have this desperate feeling, all I need to do is to recall that others are praying for me.
In relationship with Jesus Christ we are never alone.
An invitation for the day:
Whenever you get a moment in the next few hours, perhaps as you are walking or working or driving, express the reality of your feeling or mood to God. Then remember that the Lord is offering you mercy and love. Now let your focus shift from your own feeling to the love that God has for you.
For those who have time to add some music to this reflection:
You might like to pray with one or both of the musical options below. The first is the traditional chant of the De Profundis, and the second “Our of the Deep” was composed in the 1970’s by English composer John Rutter.
Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint.
If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss,
O Lord, who may abide it?
For there is mercy with thee:
therefore shalt thou be feared.
I look for the Lord;
my soul doth wait for him;
and in his word is my trust.
My soul fleeth unto the Lord before the morning watch;
I say, before the morning watch. O Israel, trust in the Lord;
for with the Lord there is mercy,
and with him is plenteous redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his sins.