Today’s psalm sings for me, in more ways than one. The obvious reason is that it has been recast as Responsorial Psalm music by several authors, perhaps most familiarly by David Haas and Marty Haugen. We hear its uplifting melody frequently, singing a new song unto the Lord for God has done wondrous deeds.
But even without the melody, the psalm’s words sing to me when I reflect on them. God HAS done wondrous deeds. How can one be aware of and respond to these wonders without singing joyfully to the Lord?!
I think the wondrous deeds of God are known to anyone who takes the time to look for them and to reflect on what they see, or hear, or sense in any way. During these short days in the northern half of our world (I am writing this with the winter solstice but days away) it is easy to see both a glorious sunrise and sunset only a few short hours apart. Comets are circling the sun, skeins of geese are still flying south, intricate patterns of frost appear magically on chilly mornings, air is crisp and clean to the nose, and the scent of wood fires adds a pleasant touch to the morning. The warmth of the house feels good when I come in from the cold, and hot soup beckons with a wonderful aroma. Other wonders come because people take the time to use the knowledge God instills in them to discover the mysteries of life. We have man-made devices sending us signals from across the galaxy and intricate explorers roaming about on distant planets. The papers and other news media are filled with items explaining the wonders of this new procedure or that new drug, engineering advances, scientific discoveries, new inventions and adaptations of not so new knowledge. The wonder of life itself is manifest through all these other wonders.
This time of year we also are reminded of the wonders of people caring for each other. While people are homeless and hungry and ill-clothed throughout the year, something about Advent and Christmas reminds us that this is a special time to care for our sisters and brothers. Toy drives, food collections, fuel subsidies, and other programs unite givers and receivers during this time of year more than any other. We mirror God’s wondrous generosity with our own.
And yet, it is so easy to take all this for granted, to demand and expect wonders because they have become part of our lives and so mundane. These wonders become ingrained in our short memory horizons, and so we expect that we will always be comfortable in our needs, that “they” will certainly develop a new something to fix this or that problem. It is amazing that the marvel of new things has a short life of public interest because something new is coming soon. If we stop to think we might appreciate the wondrous things about us, but too often we are lulled by complacency. We forget that what we know today is the culmination of all our prior human understanding of the mysteries that God has created.
I think one of the most wondrous things that God has done is to give us children and grandchildren, for as they grow they remind us by their exuberance to truly appreciate the wonders we encounter. Since their memories are short, children see with the new eyes of one who is not jaded. My 3-year-old grandson, Isaac, recently went to his first Creighton basketball game, and was very excited. But the most “wondrous” thing he saw was not the game, but an escalator – for the first time in his young life he rode on stairs that moved, positioned alongside stairs that did not. How could this be? How could something he had always known, non-moving stairs that he had learned to climb with some effort, be somehow changed so drastically – they MOVE!
And so my prayer today as I start this new year, and my wish for you, is for the grace to be like a child, discovering with joy every minute of every day the wonders the Lord has done, and for the freedom to break into songs of praise for the God who loves us.
(Adapted from Tom Purcell)