Psalm 146 sings of the rightness of creation with God reigning as Lord and Sovereign.
Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
The Davidic monarchy is no more. The experience of Israel in Exile in Babylon reminds them that blindly trusting in any human is bound to bring disappointment and even despair. There is only One who is truly faithful within all creation: the Creator.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them …
For Israel, the Creator-of-All is also the specific God of Jacob. Israel’s God. The One who called and chose them to be God’s own people. For Israel in exile, struggling to hold on to hope and faith, it is God alone who is faithful forever.
The LORD who keeps faith forever!
So what does “keeping faith” look like? The psalmist is specific:
executes justice for the oppressed
gives food to the hungry
sets the prisoners free
opens the eyes of the blind
lifts up those who are bowed down
loves the righteous
watches over the strangers
upholds the orphan and the widow
This is what the psalmist means by “keeping faith.” A proactive divine initiative on behalf of the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the righteous brings hope. Hope that – no matter the machinations of empires – the Lord of all empires is ever at work lifting up the lowly.
Here is the core tenet of Liberation Theology. If the Lord-of-All holds a “preferential option for the poor,” then this is the consequent work of the Lord’s people as well. We also are called to work on behalf of the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the blind and the bowed down. We too should be all about watching over the strangers and immigrants, the orphans and the widows.
How has the church missed this core calling?
Liberation Theology and its prime proponent, Gustavo Gutierrez, have influenced me and so many other students of theology over the years.
“Clearly the gratuitousness of God’s love challenges the patterns we have become used to,” Gutierrez writes. “The Bartimaeuses of this world have stopped being at the side of the road. They have jumped up and come to the Lord, their lifelong friend. Their presence may upset the old followers of Jesus, who spontaneously, and with the best reasons in the world, begin to defend their privileges.”
Those of us who are privileged First World North Americans may bristle at this theology that asks them to let go of their privileges, make that option for the poor and seek Christ in their struggle for justice. But Gutierrez assures us that this movement of the Spirit among us not only hastens God’s reign of justice and peace, beginning with those in extreme poverty, it leads to new blessings. This is good news. We, too, are being liberated!
The Lord’s “keeping faith” employs another dimension according to the psalmist. Not only is God actively for the poor, the psalmist declares God is actively against the “wicked.”
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
But note, it is “the way of the wicked” that this Perfect Judge judges because this “way” is the antithesis to God’s own way. This way of the wicked is opposite and opposed to The Way that is The Way of the right working design of the cosmos and all creation.
The “right way,” the way of the Lord, assumes and expects people to care for one another as the Creator cares for creation: working on behalf of the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the blind and the bowed down.
The Lord will reign forever…
for all generations.
Hallelu-Jah! Praise the LORD!
As the Sovereign of the Cosmos continues to reign and bring all creation into perfect harmony and unity, there will be peace and perfect balance. It is our call as God’s people to work in alignment with God’s own working for justice and compassion within and among all people. To work while we wait for God to finally bring all creation into perfect shalom.
National Catholic Reporter offers Gustavo Gutierrez and the preferential option for the poor by John Dear, 2011.
Also read more about James Cone, the father of Black Liberation Theology. Dr. Cone died in the Spring of 2018.