Wednesday of Holy Week – Psalm 31:9-16

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.

11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
    especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
    those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
    I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
    terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
    as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love!

My parishioner lay quietly in his bed within his assisted living center room when I went to see him. His wife had died, a constant companion for over half a century, often nattering in his very large ears. Now she was gone. He was lonely and very much alone. The staff were not neglectful, but staff can never replace a wife. Children came to visit, but they went home and left him with long hours and much grief. He asked me why God did not just take him home.

These words are read in this Holy Week because they speak to Jesus’ passion, the fact that his disciples all fled and left him alone, the plot against his life, and so much more. They convey the emotion of Holy Week for Jesus: Terror on every side (vs. 13). As I read them, however, I cannot help but think of my friend in his room, alone with his grief. I remember the loneliness of our days of isolation in the height of the lockdown. I read verse 11 and am reminded of that: I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors…those who see me in the street flee from me. But I do not think it was anything like the loneliness which he endured.  

My parishioner in the care facility had a hard time hearing me. He is with Jesus now. But when I visited him, we said the Lord’s Prayer together. I loudly blessed him with the benediction he had heard in church thousands of times. The psalmist’s final verses were Jesus’ hope as he came to the bitter hours of trial, crucifixion, and lying in a tomb. And they are our hope as well. I trust in you God because you are my God. My times are in your hand. Rescue me from my enemies and persecutors. Make your face shine upon me and save me in your steadfast love. I remind myself of these words as I walk out of nursing homes and care facilities and into the world where I get to live with my family. This man’s times and all our times are in God’s hands. I walk out of that room, but Jesus does not. He does not walk out of your life either. He has experienced the whole of humanity so that his face could shine on you and so that he could save you in his steadfast love.

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