Friday, February 17, 2012



I stepped out of the front door of the monastery this afternoon onto King Boulevard. I turned left and walked up the street half a block until I came to the yellow police tape stretching across the entire street. On the other side of the tape were the cameras and newscasters in front of Whigham’s funeral parlor where Whitney Houston’s remains are being kept until tomorrow morning’s funeral. Being a local boy I knew a little alley that brought me around the police barricade and out onto Court Street where about forty people were standing around a metal crowd control barrier that blocked the street just a few feet from Whigham’s. I made a little detour to avoid appearing in the background of a Spanish language newscast.

Except for the subdued Spanish voice there was barely a sound from the people. The hush was eerie. It reminded me of the quiet you experience, say, the morning after a terrible house fire when curious people show up to stand and gaze in sober silence at the charred ruins.

Whitney Houston, like me, was born in Newark, and like me grew up in East Orange (though many years after me) and hung out in Elmwood Park where I used to hang out, so I feel some connection with her. I’d like to dedicate this meditation on Psalm 68 to her in thanks for the way she made her great talents into a gift that she shared with millions of people. I've been reflecting on this psalm for a few days, and it seems an appropriate meditation to honor someone whose life was filled with so much beauty and so much struggle and tragedy.


(I’m indebted to Padre Carlos Valles, S.J. for the following meditation which I’ve loosely translated from his reflection on Psalm 68 in Busco Tu Rostro, Orar los Salmos.)

My life is like a long journey, Lord. You invite me to walk from Sinai to Sion with you as my guide. Sinai is where I hear your voice, your commandments, and your promise to lead your Holy People into the Promised Land.

Sion on the other hand is the city strongly compact, the impregnable fortress, your holy temple.

My life is a journey like the one your Chosen People took
from the mountain in the wilderness to the temple in your holy city,
from the promise to the reality,
from hope to glory
across the wide and uncharted desert of my earthly existence.
You accompany me on this march, Lord,
with your presence, your help,
and your direction through the desert sands.
I feel safe in your company.

O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain
at the presence of God, the God of Sinai,
at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

Sometimes the wandering is hard.
there are dangers and enemies (ask Whitney Houston).
There’s the fatigue that comes from walking,
there's discouragement often enough, and sometimes
there’s even the doubt that the journey will ever get to its promised goal. There are strange places along the route,
and kings and armies that threaten at every turn in the road. But we travel with the Ark of your presence in our midst, And it’s this presence that gives us protection
and victory in our daily battles during this faith journey.

Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
as wax melts before the fire,
let the wicked perish before God.
But let the righteous be joyful;
let them exult before God;
let them be jubilant with joy.
Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds—
his name is the LORD—
be exultant before him.
Father of orphans and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to live in;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious live in a parched land.
(Ps. 68:1-6)

My pilgrim journey is made easier by the knowledge that it is your journey, too.
You come with me. You are the God of the wilderness just as you are the God of my life.
You lead your holy people with you and me along with them.
I rejoice as the last and least in the sacred procession,
the Benjamin among the tribes of Israel.

Your solemn processions are seen, O God,
the processions of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
the singers in front, the musicians last,
between them girls playing tambourines:
‘Bless God in the great congregation,
the LORD, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!’
There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,
the princes of Judah in a body,
the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali
(vv 24-27)

This is my joy, Lord, this is my protection in the desert:
to walk in company with your people. To feel myself one with your people,
to fight in its battles, to weep at its defeats,
and to rejoice in its victories.
I’m no solitary traveler, no lonely pilgrim.
I am part of God’s people that marches as one,
united by one faith, one Leader, and one destiny.
I know its history and its songs.


Our sister Whitney would have sung the following hymn many times in church.
It seems an appropriate ending to a meditation on Psalm 68
and a beautiful way to end a little tribute to Whitney Houston

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

May our sister Whitney, whose soulful songs surely helped many people along their own wilderness journey, indeed spend eternity filled with His goodness and lost in His love!



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