Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Last week we revisited a challenge of strengthening a particular habit of discipleship in our life. Of course, I think it goes without saying how important repetition is in forming good habits. This week I want to extend a similar challenge that has the potential of becoming a powerful foundation for all our holy habits. This week our discipleship challenge is to memorize one of the Psalms.
Why is memorization important, you might ask? Well, day in and day out we rely on a tremendous amount of information that we have, effectively, memorized. Whether it’s the password to our computer, email or bank account; or family birthdays or anniversaries; we rely on troves of stored information housed in our memory’s “hard drive” in order to get through the day.
The same is true of prayer. As many priests can testify, elderly parishioners afflicted by dementia, including my mother, often have little difficulty recalling prayers learned as children.
What is more: The information we memorize actually shapes our thoughts, ideas and outlook on the world. As the old saying goes: “If you hear something enough, you start to believe it.” What we memorize informs how we view ourselves, others and the world around us.
Therefore, we need to be intentional about committing things to memory that will help us hear God’s voice in the midst the noise of the world. Things that will help us be aware of the presence of God throughout the day. Which brings us to the Book of Psalms.
The Book of Psalms contains 150 songs. Seventy-three of the Psalms are attributed to King David. The majority were composed for liturgical worship. Many of them are songs of praise and thanksgiving. So why memorize the psalms? In short, because Jesus himself memorized the psalms and he is the role model for any aspiring disciple.
Even while dying on the cross, the psalms remained on the lips of our Blessed Lord. In the words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. And then from Psalm 31: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” I am going to focus on Psalm 91!
That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that: “The Psalms constitute the masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament…Prayed and fulfilled in Christ, the Psalms are an essential and permanent element of the prayer of the Church. They are suitable for men of every condition and time,” (The Catechism #2596-7)
By memorizing Sacred Scripture, we are literally imprinting God’s word on our minds, helping us be better prepared to share Jesus Christ, and his Holy Church, with those who don’t yet know him. Eventually our conversations will become less about our word and more about the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us: Jesus Christ himself.
May God bless you in this week’s challenge. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing
Footnote: Here are hyperlinks to seven suggested psalms: