Stories Seldom Heard
227th Edition June 2018
Welcome to Stories Seldom Heard. I would like specially to
welcome the parishioners of Holy Innocents Catholic Church,
Pleasantville, New York and the members of the Dominican Laity
Retreat, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Psalm 37 is identified as a Wisdom Psalm. It is also an acrostic
psalm which means that the first line of every stanza begins with
the successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. If this psalm were
originally written in English, the first word in the first line
would begin with “a.” The first word in the second line would begin
with “b,” etc. Much of the beauty and intricacies of Hebrew poetry
are lost in translation. However, having said this, Psalm 37 is a
good example of another technique that is not lost in translation.
Hebrew poetry is known for its contrasting images and statements.
In this psalm, the psalmist repeatedly juxtaposes the actions of the
wicked person with those of a good person. In the first stanza the
psalmist tells us not to worry about the wicked because “Quick as
the grass they wither, fading like the green in the field.” But, God
takes care of the good people. “Their heritage will last forever.”
Psalm 37 offers us some practical wisdom. In an uncomplicated way
it describes both the actions of the wicked and the ways of those
who “Commit their lives to God” (verse 5). The faithful person
directs her/his attention to values that last. Throughout Psalm 37
the virtuous, the friends of God “will have the land for their own”
– a symbolic term that implies stability, a good life for one’s
family and enough food to be “generous and openhanded” to others.
The psalm evokes confidence and a sense of calmness. But, at the
same time it tends to make everything a little too simplistic and
clear cut. It sounds as though the good person will have nothing to
worry about because everything will go well for her/him. However,
we have lived long enough to know that these lines are not to be
taken literally. No matter how good we are, life happens. Also, we
know that often the line between the wicked and the good person is
blurred. All of us have found ourselves in need of forgiveness.
Some days we are better at doing good works and being faithful to
our commitments than other days.
Yet, at the same time on many levels the psalm rings true. The good
person knows what is of real value. She/he knows that life,
possessions and fame are passing and with that knowledge tries to
put her/his decisions in the context of what is right and just
according to God’s law. This Wisdom psalm takes the long view of
life and experience. We hear this in verse 25 when the psalmist
says, “Now I am old….I have never seen a virtuous person deserted.”
This is the psalmist’s way of saying that even when everything
doesn’t turn out the way we, good people, had hoped, we, in trust,
hand over what is out of our control to God. We know that we don’t
have all the answers and our good intentions often fall short.
Often the psalms refer to the law of God as one law, one
commandment. “The mouths of the just murmur wisdom. Their tongues
speak what is right; the law of God is in their hearts. Their steps
do not falter.” Jesus also speaks of the one commandment: the
greatest commandment. He joins the love of God and love of neighbor
together. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27).
The good person will “make their home in the land and live in
peace.” What a blessing: to live in peace. Whether we lived over
2,000 years ago or in our modern society today, no one would
underestimate the blessing of living during peaceful times in a
secure home. For this, like our ancestors, we pray each day.
The challenge for virtuous people is to make the connection between
love of God and love of neighbor secure. This requirement is a
basic tenet of all major religions. Even though each religious
tradition has its own sacred texts, many of their practices are the
same: prayer, fasting, self-disciple, personal integrity and the
consistent care and concern for their neighbor. We are especially
aware of these religious practices and commitments of our Muslim
sisters and brothers during this month of Ramadan. There have been
many articles explaining the purpose of their strict religious
practices. In light of the season of Ramadan, and the desire of all
people of good well to live according to the Law of Love and care
for neighbor, I offer the following basic principles of the twelve
“Becoming a Caring Community.”
“Desire not for anyone the things that ye would not desire for
yourself.” Baba Ullah
“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
Christianity - “So, in everything, do to others what you would have
them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
“Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.”
“Never do to others what
would pain thyself.” Panchatantra III.104
Islam - “Do unto all men as they should do unto
you, and reject for others, what you reject for yourself.” Mishkat-el
Jainism “In happiness and suffering, in joy and
grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.”
Lord Mahavira, 6th century B.C.E.
is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire
Law….” Talmud, Shabbat 314
for all life is the foundation.” The Great Law of Peace
"Treat others as thou wouldst
be treated thyself.” Adi Granth
“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain and neighbor’s loss as
your loss.” T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien Zoroastrianism - “That nature
alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is
not good for itself.” Dadistan-I-Dinik, 94:5 - The similarities and
our responsibilities are sobering! I wonder what the world would
look like if each of us tried to live our tradition more fully.
Voices of Peace and Justice, St. Louis, MO.
Special thanks to Mary Ellen Green and Maria Hetherton who have
helped in editing this article.
"Stories Seldom Heard"
is a monthly article written by Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P. Sister
is a Dominican Sister of San Rafael, California. This service is
offered to the Christian community to enrich one's personal and
spiritual life. The articles can be used for individual or group
reflection. If you would like to support this ministry, please send
your contributions to Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, c/o Sister
Patricia Bruno, O.P., 2017 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
To make changes
or remove your name from Stories Seldom Heard mailing list please
contact me at email@example.com