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23 July 2015

8.So.n.Trin. / Pentecost 9

Psalm 145

Saint Francis of Assisi lay on his deathbed. He was singing, and singing so loudly that the whole neighborhood heard about it.

Brother Elias, a pompous but prominent member of the Franciscan order, came close to Saint Francis and said, ‘Father, there are people standing in the street outside your window.’ Fearing that the last moment of Francis’ life had come, many who loved him had gathered together around the house.

Said Brother Elias, “I am afraid nothing we might do could prevent them from hearing you singing. The lack of restraint at so grave an hour might embarrass the order, Father. It might lower the esteem in which you yourself are so justly held. Perhaps in your extremity you have lost sight of your obligation to the many who have come to regard you as a saint. Would it not be more edifying for them if you would, er, die with more Christian dignity?”

Brother Elias was worried. But not about Saint Francis. He worried about lack of decorum.  He worried about himself and the order. We can almost guess his thoughts: “It will be very embarrassing for us later on. How are we going to respond when the crowds demand to know what happened in the saint's last moments?”

Brother Elias was concerned with public opinion. He wanted to prove his master to be the greatest master, to be the greatest of saints, and he knew only one way to prove it — that he should be dignified in his death. Singing in his mind was as frivolous, as ordinary, as dancing.

But Francis had different priorities. He was a man of the people.  Like it always has been with God's mystics, Francis had conquered his ego; once the ego is disempowered, there are no more dualisms.  For Francis there was no distinction between "dignified" and "ordinary".  As he had been "melting into God" for many years (Sr. Joan Chittister has used that phrase to describe mystics), he had no use for silly quibblers like Brother Elias.

So, Saint Francis said, “Please excuse me, Brother,” “but I feel so much joy in my heart that I really can’t help myself. I must sing!”

And he died singing. There can be no better death. If you can die singing, that proves that you lived singing, that your life was a joy, and that death was the crescendo of it, the culmination.

The voice of the individual psalmist (VV. 1-2)
Āleph 1 I will exalt you, my God the king, / and I will bless your name for all time and beyond. Bêt 2 Every day I will bless you, / and I will praise your name for all time and beyond.

Declarative statements 
by the individual psalmist (VV. 3-9)
Gîmel 3 Great is the Lord and exceedingly praiseworthy; / for his greatness there is no searching out. Dālet 4 Generation to generation will glorify your doings, / and your mighty works they will make known. Hê 5 On the splendor of the glory of your majesty, / and on the words of your wondrous works I will meditate. Wāw 6 And the might of your awesome deeds they will tell, / and your greatness I will recount. Zayin 7 The memory of your great goodness they will utter forth, / and of your righteousness they will sing aloud.  Ḥêt 8 Showing favor and compassionate is the Lord / slow to anger and great of hesed. Têt 9 Good is the Lord to all, / and his compassions are over all his works.

The voices of the individual 
psalmist and the hesed ones (V. 10)
Yôd 10 All of your works will give thanks to you, O Lord, / and your hesed ones will bless you.

Interlude: God’s kingdom 
is for all time (VV. 11-13)
Kāp 11 The glory of your kingdom they will tell, / and of your mighty works they will speak, Lāmed 12 in order to make known to the children of humanity his mighty work / and the glory and the splendor of his kingdom. Mêm 13 Your kingdom is a kingdom for all times, / and your dominion is for all generations.

Descriptive statements 
by the individual psalmist 
and the hesed ones (VV. 14-20)
Sāmek 14 The Lord supports all who are falling / and lifts up all who are bent down. Ayin 15 The eyes of all look to you, / and you give them their food in its time, Pê 16 opening your hand / and satisfying for every living thing its desire. Ṣādê 17 Righteous is the Lord in all his ways / and hesed in all his doings. Qôp 18 Near is the Lord to all who cry out to him, / to all who cry out to him in truth. Rêš 19 The desire of the ones who reverence him he fulfills, / and their cry for help he hears and helps them. Šîn 20 The Lord watches over all who love him, / but all the wicked he will destroy.

The voices of the individual 
psalmist, the hesed ones, and all flesh (V. 21)
Tāw 21 The praise of the Lord my mouth will speak, / and all flesh will bless his holy name for all time and beyond (NICOT).

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To be continued.

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