OUR GREEN PASTURE

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

If you were to ask people where those words can be found, most people, even those who are not churchgoers, would be able to tell you that they are from the Bible.

They might not know that the words are part of Psalm 23, but they certainly would recognize them as scriptural sounding.

Those words have inspired painters, sculptors, poets, musicians, and church architects down to this very day; they have influenced the prayers of the Mass and have been printed on countless memorial cards; they have even made their way into popular films when there are scenes of a religious service.

Those words have etched the image of Jesus as the good shepherd into our spiritual consciousness. They present a beautiful, comforting image of the Lord watching over the sheep of his flock.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

Those words and the remaining verses of Psalm 23 that make up this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 23:1-6) also give us a way to understand what happens at every Sunday Mass.

Each Sunday, the Lord brings his sheep together. He invites those who were made part of his flock in the waters of baptism to step away from their daily hectic schedule. He encourages them to take time to be renewed in verdant, green pastures – the green pastures he provides during the celebration of Mass.

As the scripture readings are proclaimed and the homily is preached, the Lord gives us a message of hope, consolation, and inspiration. He reveals the meaning of life and the depth of God’s love and mercy. As the psalm puts it, “he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths.”

The Lord then sets a table before us. Our focus shifts from the pulpit to the altar table. There the Lord nourishes his flock with his very life-giving Body and Blood. As the psalm proclaims, “You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes.”

During the Mass, the Lord our shepherd also gives his flock the assurance of his presence not only in the liturgy but also in the difficulties of life. He remains with us. As the psalm tells us, “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.”

Our shepherd even promises that those who share at the table he spreads before us will have eternal life. He tells us in the Gospel of John, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51) This gives us confidence to proclaim, as we do in Sunday’s psalm, that we “shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.”

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

Those words not only paint a loving image of God’s care for us, they also reveal what the Lord does for us at every Sunday Mass. In the midst of our confused and troubled world, our shepherd leads us to green pastures; our shepherd refreshes our souls.

© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski