We consider now the last two verses of this beautiful Psalm, verses 5-6.
In the early Church, Psalm 23 was associated with the three sacraments of initiation: Baptism – verse 2 “beside the still waters”, Confirmation – verse 5 “thou anointest my head with oil”, Eucharist – verse 5 “Thou preparest a table before me”. Further, it even seemed to comment on one’s new life in the Church and one’s promised life hereafter: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (verse 6). It seems like a prophetic Ecclesiastical Psalm.
But let’s step back and look at two other simple themes running through this Psalm: the Path of Righteousness and the Will of God.
THE PATH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: “he leadeth me” (v.2), “he leadeth me” (v.3), “in the paths of righteousness” (v.3), “I walk…thou art with me” (v.4), “shall follow me” (v.6). Psalm 23 describes a journey of faith, a journey along a path which leads us to a place; the Church. Nature reveals God’s creative hand to us (v.2), but proceeding we experience the tender hand of God as “He restoreth my soul” (v.3) and then comforts me (v.4). By the time we arrive at His Eucharistic liturgy, “He preparest a table before me” (v.5), almost like a servant – reminding us of Jesus washing the feet of His apostles at the Last Supper. And Jesus did prepare the table for them at that last supper as He changed the bread into His Body and the wine into His Blood – this was thoughtful loving preparation. So the “waters” of verse 2 have now been changed into wine “my cup runneth over”, and within the Church, into His blood. “He prepares the mystical table” as the early Church Father, St. Gregory of Nyssa, commented concerning verse 5.
THE WILL OF GOD: “The Lord is my shepherd” tells us right away that we are sheep who must follow the Shepherd’s “will”. It is His tender-hearted will that we rest and eat in “green pastures” and rest and drink “the still waters” (v.2) because He intends to “restoreth” our souls. He wills that we represent Him even within the “valley of the shadow of death” (v.4) – today read “valley of the culture of death”. He protects us by being with us; “for thou art with me” (v.4). He is strong and mighty, inspiring His flock to witness to the truth of His Culture of Life “for his name’s sake” (v.3). Verses 5-6 speak of the abundant blessings which the Lord intends for us; sacramentally, mystically, eternally, first in this world, then in the next. “Mercy and goodness shall follow me” within the Mystical Body of Christ, as God wills.
The Good Shepherd also entrusted Peter with this shepherding tradition and mandate: “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep”, “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15,16,17).
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