Posted March 3, 2006
Book: The Lord is my Shepherd: Divine Consolation in Times of Abandonment
Author: Leonardo Boff
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, pp. 144
An Excerpt from the Jacket:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters. . .
Even though I walk through the valley of
the shadow of death, I fear no evil;
For you are with me . . .” Psalm 23: 1,2,4
One of the most heart-felt and popular prayers in all of scripture, Psalm 23
expresses a deep faith and trust in a loving God. In this line-by-line
reflection, Leonardo Boff shows us how this prayer, attributed to King
David, speaks to our own and the world’s condition, offering us peace and
comfort in times of fear and sorrow.
“If God is with us,” Boff writes, “we have everything. . .That is the divine
consolation for the human plight.”
An Excerpt from the Book:
What are the safe paths?
Which are the main paths over which God-shepherd safely leads us to our
destination? We are going to note only some of them.
The first path is personal conscience. The bishops from around the world,
meeting as a council in Rome in 1965 with Pope Paul VI, wrote: “Conscience
is the most secret core and sanctuary, of human beings where they are alone
with God, whose voice echoes in their depts” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 16).
Indeed, we all hear an inner voice in the various circumstances of life,
counseling us to do good and avoid evil. It is God speaking to us. This
voice is clear on this point when it says, “Do not do to the other what you
do not want others to do to you.”
None of us likes to be deceived, to suffer violence, to see our things
destroyed. Therefore, we ought not do such things to someone else.
Translating for the present: “Don’t deceive your customer in business”; “Don
’t destroy someone else’s image for your own personal advantage?”; “Don’t
evade taxes to increase your profit”’ “Don’t use the Internet to spread
falsehood against an individual or organization or opposed political party”;
“Don’t humiliate a weaker nation”; “Don’t exploit its oil or its water”;
“Don’t wage a devastating war that mows down the innocent and destroys the
infrastructure of countries.” If the powerful heads of state had followed
this golden rule, we would not have to stand by impotently before assaults
that annihilate innocent people, make entire peoples insecure, and
contribute to the endless spiral of violence.
Situations in life are complex. The voice of conscience is not always clear.
And we can deceive ourselves. How are we to act? The rule is always this:
Follow your conscience, but try to clarify it. We clarify it by talking with
people, especially those who are wiser or more steady-tempered, seeking good
sense and proper balance, and heeding guidance from religions, churches, and
other sources of meaning and value that exist in society. Only then may we
make our decision and take responsibility for it.
Even so, we will not always avoid errors. But as the bishops said in Rome,
“Even when it is mistaken, conscience never loses its dignity.” What is
never permissible is lying to ourselves or acting against our conscience,
even to follow a norm, regardless of how sacred its source (from a religion
or from the pope), that goes against our inner voice. In doing so we would
be unfaithful not only to ourselves but also to God.
The key thing is being at peace with our conscience and being sure that the
path is the path of God. It may bend, go up or down, skirt along precipices,
but it will surely take us to our desired destination.
Table of Contents:
Part 1: Praying amid contradictions
Prayer: Breath of the soul
The psalms: our spiritual Xray
Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd and host
Part 2: The Song of the Shepherd
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul
He leads me along safe paths
For his name’s sake
Even though I walk through the darkest valley
I fear no evil; for you are with me
Your rod and your staff — they comfort me
Part 3: The Song of the Host
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oil
My cup overflows
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life
I shall dwell in the house
of the Lord my whole life long