Psalm 31: Good Friday’s prayer for broken souls at a crisis point


Good FridayHave you ever wondered what your last words will be?

Leonardo da Vinci’s focused on what he didn’t get done:

“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

Actor Humphrey Bogart was flip:

“I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.”

Atheist Karl Marx was typically defiant:

“Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”

Clearly, nine words too many!

On the other other hand, Jesus quoted Psalm 31 on Good Friday, as  reported by Luke 23:46:

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

This psalm is so important, so loaded with meaning, that we sing/pray it every Good Friday in the Catholic Church in three minutes of stark drama.

Like Psalm 22 that we sang on Palm Sunday, Psalm 31 explores the depths of  the human experience at a crisis point. The psalmist is a laughingstock, an object of scorn, a pariah who has lost friends.  The world has rejected him.

All of this leads to the power of this psalm.

When we hit bottom, we have two choices:  give up, or go on.  The psalmist tells us to go on, as long as we let God carry us.  He calls on God to rescue him.  And then he turns everything, body AND spirit over to the Creator who provided the gift of his body and spirit in the first place.

The prayer of the psalmist is primal: 

“Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.”

This is a prayer for the living, whether you have a billion breaths left … or but one.


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