A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
Some of the most beautiful verses of the Scriptures of the World are found in Psalm Twenty-three. The idea of the Divine as” shepherd” is more than endearing. The Divine raises and cares for the sheep not as commodities to be sold at the market but companions on the road of life. The imagery found in the Psalm is one of walking together. Think for a moment of all the times in your life when someone lovingly walked with you and, perhaps, you walked with them. Walking on the pathways of life is something your heart does and your feet follow.
I am struck by the words, “there is nothing I shall want.” I need to stop and think about those powerful words. In fact, I want everything life can give. The Psalmist seems to think all other desires cease when you experience the Divine walking with you. Perhaps it is a matter of perspective. I begin to see all things through the eyes of another. Once I caught myself shopping for someone other than me. I once was tempted to think if I had resources, they would be for me. The Lord as “my” shepherd empowers us to care for one another.
Our Psalm is commonly heard in the funeral liturgy of various communities. To the best of my knowledge, no one in the Psalm actually dies. The “green pastures” are resting places of refreshment. We “walk through the Valley of death” without stopping. Caught up in the caring embrace of the Divine, death itself is but another step on the journey of life.
The Divine Shepherd provides guidance and comfort as we journey together on the pathways of life. Setbacks, failures, fatigue, and confusion are part of the journey. If the Divine Shepherd judges, it is only for the sake of offering a sense of direction and the necessary comfort to continue our way. We need to learn from the Divine Shepherd. Sometimes we are too quick to judge the failures of self and others. We can trip ourselves up unless we travel with an attitude of compassion willing to be of help to one another.
The imagery of “setting a table for me in the sight of my foes” touches me deeply. A superficial reading would tempt us to conclude our foes are excluded. We might be tempted to think we are home free; the victory is ours. We need only sit down at the table and sneer at our foes. Wisdom teaches us not to be too quick to condemn. The Divine Shepherd sets a table before us not as a reward but as a comfort and an example. If we truly love the Shepherd who guides and comforts us on our journey then we are following the example of the Divine who would invite our foes to the feast.
We must resist any temptation to be merely touched by the beauty of this Psalm. We must sing its words and pray their meaning into every aspect of our lives. We are called to be Divine Shepherds one to another. Our confrontations must be for the sake of guidance and our presence a transforming comfort.
Blessing to you, Holy Community, for all the times you walked with your Shepherd and invited others to walk with you. Thank you for all the times your set the table of your heart for friend and foe alike.
As things begin to return to a new normal, we at The Interfaith Peace Project are here for you in any way that you need us. The Antioch Center is now open to fully vaccinated people on Wednesdays, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. We are vigilant and will adjust to any and all recommendations from the state and county. We will continue our work through Zoom as we add in person programs. If you would like to schedule an in person or Zoom program or would like a phone appointment with any of us, give us a call. You may call or email Tom at: