Add Psalm 23 to whack pack for courage in face of death

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 10, 2022

Full text of the 23rd Psalm

Two weeks ago, I asked for your suggestions for what to include in a whack pack for a world out of whack. Your suggestions have been very inspiring. One, in particular, offers courage and comfort for today’s troubled times in the spirit of one of the best known of sacred poems.

Author/retreat presenter Fr. Max Oliva, S.J., currently of Spokane, Wash., is a frequent visitor to Cochrane. His many years of addressing spirituality-related issues have made him especially grateful for his suggestion for our whack pack.

“For the whack pack, I would like a large printed version of Psalm 23,” he says. “I have always liked Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’ Each section hits me in different ways, depending on what is going on in my life.”

I dare say that most, if not all, of our readers are familiar with this psalm from the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. It’s often cited in other religious traditions, too. There is something universal about its appeal, especially with reference to walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.”

For Fr. Max, “the dark valley refers to those times in my life when God has invited me to enter into dangerous places, for example, walking on the Falls Road in Northern Ireland before the Good Friday Agreement (1998), and when giving talks in South Africa on social justice before apartheid ended.”

More recently, he says, Psalm 23 has been his constant companion following a mild stroke he had in early January.

And like so many others I know, he has used this psalm extensively in funerals.

For me, as Christendom enters this year’s 40-day period of Lent preceding Easter, I can’t help but think of the courage of so many Ukrainians who are prepared to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” to defend their land and heritage, unintimidated by invading forces.

May Psalm 23 be our prayer for them. May the Good Shepherd be their courage and comfort, and their Host at the heavenly banquet.


© 2022 Warren Harbeck

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