Musical compositions of today’s Psalm are among my favorites. Whenever I hear Marty Haugen’s “Taste and See” or John Foley’s “The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor,” which are based on Psalm 34, I am reminded of parish Masses during my childhood in a small city in Wisconsin. More importantly, I experience again how it shapes my image of God as a compassionate being who chooses to stay close to those who are broken and hurting.
In August, I returned to the classroom as a Catholic high school teacher. Each day, I have an opportunity to engage students in spirituality, Scripture, and social justice. For most of these young teenagers, God is a distant or irrelevant being, if existing at all. Most biblical stories are new to them, and most of their associations with Scripture are negative. A common complaint, for example, is that Scripture is used to justify homophobia.
In Psalm 34, we encounter a God who takes a side—and it’s the side of the anawim, “the little ones,” those who are poor, marginalized, brokenhearted, or “crushed in spirit.” God hears their cries and promises to deliver them from fear, distress, troubles, and afflictions.
I love inviting my students to reimagine Scripture, meet this God of liberation and, most of all, imitate and labor with this God in our broken and hurting world. It’s not easy. There are so many distractions and frustrations along the way.
When Pope Francis visited the island of Lampedusa, where so many refugees have died in the Mediterranean, he lamented, “The globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!” May today’s Psalm open up our religious imagination, soften our hearts, and strengthen our social commitments. Let us take a side with God—with the anawim.
- What in your life shapes your image of God as a compassionate being who chooses to stay close to those who are broken and hurting?
- How are you being led to take a side with God, with the anawim?
Luke Hansen is a campus minister and religious studies teacher at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. He has worked extensively with prisoners as a teacher, minister, and advocate. A native of Wisconsin, Luke enjoys running, playing basketball, and cheering for his favorite sports teams.