Friends, first I want to apologize for not having the Mass setting sheets for the Easter season in the back of the hymnal for last weekend. After coming back from a few days of time off post-Easter, making those inserts honestly slipped my mind. Rest assured they are printed and ready for you today!
For this weekend’s reflection, I want to focus on the responsorial psalm. Today we hear from Psalm 4. The overarching theme of the psalm is one of confidence in God, though it is interspersed with elements of lament. We hear only a portion of the psalm today with most of the “lament” verses omitted. Interestingly, this is the only weekend in the entire three year Sunday and feast day cycle that we sing Psalm 4 at Mass. However, in the Liturgy of the Hours, this psalm is said at Night Prayer (Compline) every Saturday and the night prior to any solemnity. Why is that? I believe the answer lies in the refrain today: “Lord, let your face shine on us” (vs. 7b) which is a reference to the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26:
“The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”
The prayer of the psalmist, now our own prayer as we sing the refrain, is asking for God to release us from weakness and sin by letting the light of his face shine upon us. Jesus--Light from Light--, and risen from the dead, has let his merciful face shine on us, transforming sin to grace, distress to peace, and darkness to light. It is no coincidence that today’s gospel takes place at night.
The first verse (Luke 24:35) is the last verse of the famous Emmaus story where Cleopas and his companion urged Jesus, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over” (vs. 29). After they recognized the Lord in the breaking of the bread, Jesus vanished from their sight. Their sadness and fear had been changed to joy and confidence and they ran seven miles back to Jerusalem that same night! Jesus then appears to all the disciples that same Easter night and extends his blessing: “Peace be with you” (vs. 36). The light of the Lord’s face shining upon the disciples turned their weakness and fear into strength and joy. Boldly preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all the nations (vs. 47-48, Acts 3:19, 1 John 2:2), they now present a way to know the peace of the risen Christ and live in his light by calling each soul to conversion. Christ’s faithful ones “know that the Lord works wonders” and he “will hear whenever [they] call him” (Psalm 4:4). By following Jesus, each of us can “peacefully lie down and fall asleep, knowing the Lord alone makes us dwell in safety” (vs. 9).
Thus after confidently praying Psalm 4 each Saturday night, Compline concludes: “Lord, be with us throughout this night. When day comes may we rise from sleep to rejoice in the resurrection of your Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.” May the face of the risen Christ shine on us, bless us, and give us peace so we can boldly live as an Easter people!