The 150 Psalms is the Prayer-book par excellence! Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Psalms express the basic feelings, emotions, affections of the human heart. In a word, one of the most efficacious tools to learn to pray, to grow in prayer and to persevere in prayer, would be to plunge into the infinite ocean of spirituality present in the Psalms.
Praise and adoration, thanksgiving and oblation, supplication and petition, wonder and awe, contrition and reparation—all of these and many more are the sentiments of prayer that the Book of Psalms offers us.
FAMOUS AND MOST LOVED OF ALL THE PSALMS. Now of all of the 150 Psalms, for many the most famous and most loved is Psalm 23—known as the Psalm of the Good Shepherd, opening with the consoling words: “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall lack….”
TIMES OF DARKNESS AND DESOLATION. In those dark moments when we experience desolation, when all seems to be dark, dreary, cold, useless, even hopeless, why not lift your mind, heart, and prayer to Psalm 23—the Good Shepherd.
TIME, PLACE, SILENCE. Find some time, some place (your prayer-corner), and silence where you can be alone with the Lord and allow the Good Shepherd to walk before you, to walk with you at your side, and even to allow the Good Shepherd to walk behind you. In all these different spaces and positions, the Good Shepherd is with you, thinks about you, and loves you.
Being keenly aware of the person of the Good Shepherd—who is truly Jesus Himself—and His great love and concern for you, it will be a sure means to leave desolation and experience the peace and joy of God’s consolation.
Therefore, we invite you at any time during the course of your day to seek out the loving and friendly presence of the Good Shepherd, but especially when the dark clouds of desolation are descending on your soul.
In this short essay we will offer a few ideas to help us to come to know and love the Good Shepherd of our souls—Jesus our Lord, Savior and God.
PSALM 23: THE GOOD SHEPHERD OF MY SOUL
“The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength.
You guide me along the right path, for the sake of your name.
Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.
You set a table before me as my enemies watch: you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.”
GETTING TO KNOW & LOVE THE GOOD SHEPHERD: POINTS FOR MEDITATION & PRAYER…
1. JESUS IS TRULY THE GOOD SHEPHERD of my life in its totality. Every dimension of my life, Jesus the Good Shepherd wants to guide, rule and protect.
2. I LACK NOTHING. Even if I were to lose all on a human level—money, home, friends, support, health, and esteem, if I have Jesus as my Good Shepherd, I really lack nothing. Jesus indeed is the Way, the Truth, the Life, my alpha and omega, my beginning and end, my Principle and Foundation. Jesus is my sure and stable support. If I have Jesus as the center of my life, I have all that I really need.
3. GREEN PASTURES AND SAFE WATERS. In green pastures the Good Shepherd will nourish me with sufficient food, clothing and shelter for my body. He will nourish me with His Word—the Bible, the Word of God. Blood and water gushed forth from His open side on the cross. His Body and Blood in the Eucharist will be nourishment for my soul. The waters have cleansed my soul through Baptism. This water also symbolizes the cleansing power of the Sacrament of Confession so that my soul becomes clean, as white as the snow.
4. STRENGTH. The Lord restores my strength. We are weak; we languish and lose our strength and vitality, but the Lord can restore it to us. In another Psalm: “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 124:8)
5. THE RIGHT PATH. The Good Shepherd guides me along the right path for the sake of His Name. Jesus is THE WAY, TRUTH AND LIFE! He leads us on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life—that is to say: HEAVEN!!!
6. HIS NAME: JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD. The Name of Jesus is powerful and at His NAME all knees shall bow in heaven and on earth, and even below the earth. (Phil. 2:10) In desolation, I will repeat with love and confidence Jesus, Jesus, Jesus… the Good Shepherd of my soul!
7. DARK VALLEY. We all have to walk through the Dark Valley in our lives. For St. Ignatius of Loyola, this Dark Valley could be defined as desolation. All seems to be obscure, dark, cold, lonely, sad and depressing. We all experience Dark Valleys in our lives; desolation is part of being human.
8. HOPE IN THE DARK VALLEY. No fear because Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is with us now more than ever. He will not abandon us. He Himself said: “I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.” (Mt. 28:20) Even now, He is at my side.
9. HIS ROD AND STAFF. Every Good Shepherd is equipped with both ROD AND STAFF. The staff supports the Shepherd and his sheep when travelling. The rod serves to ward off enemies—especially the prowling and ravenous wolves, the malicious packs of wolves. Indeed, the Good Shepherd will be with me in my spiritual battles against my three enemies: the devil, the flesh, and the world.
10. TABLE SET BEFORE ME. Once again, the Good Shepherd is intent upon feeding me. The nourishment and sustenance that the Good Shepherd provides for me is for both my mind and my soul: the Word of God and the Holy Eucharist. The Good Shepherd has at Heart, my spiritual nourishment, the salvation of my immortal soul.
11. ANOINTS MY HEAD WITH OIL. The Good Shepherd has anointed me with the healing balm of oil. My anointing with oil took place at my Baptism. First the oil of the catechumens, and then the chrism oil with which I was anointed priest, prophet, and king. This is true for all the faithful at Baptism. Whereas an ordained priest’s hands are anointed so as the celebrate Holy Mass.
12. MY CUP OVERFLOWS. The cup/chalice symbolizes the Precious Blood of Jesus poured forth on Calvary on Good Friday for our purification, sanctification, and salvation. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not give sparingly but in abundance.
13. ONLY GOODNESS AND KINDNESS PURSUE ME. Indeed, how true that goodness and kindness, love, joy, mercy, compassion and all the most sublime virtues will adorn my soul, if I walk side by side with the Good Shepherd.
14. DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD. My dwelling place will be the house of the Lord. The Good Shepherd will live in me, if I maintain sanctifying grace in my soul. I will visit the Lord’s House where He lives in the Tabernacle. Finally, my ultimate and final dwelling place will be with the Lord in Heaven for all eternity. How consoling these truths!