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The Responsorial Psalm for this 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Times is very interesting. It asks and, then, answers an important question about life. How good is good enough for God? That is to say, how good does one need to be in order to experience God’s presence and favor? Many a time, our world wants to make up its own standards of living and wants no help from God. Contemporary culture wants morality to be determined by whatever seems convenient, whatever feels good, and whatever can get me ahead. But our standards for living should never come from our personal preferences or society; it should come from God. That is why this Psalm needs to have top priority in our scale of preference. It describes specific elements of good Christian living and then ends with a definitive promise: “Whoever does these things will never be shaken”.

The elements of good Christian living that are mention in this Psalm can be classified into four interwoven categories.

(a) Personal Character—doing what is right, speaking the truth, faithfulness to one’s word and promises, and moral integrity. A child once told me that he thinks his father is a saint because he keeps to his words.

(b) Love of others. Here, the focus is on slander and the sins of an untamed tongue—gossiping, insulting, belittling, bragging, manipulating, false teaching, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, lying, reviling, and discrediting others. It is so easy to throw out snide, hurtful, even de-humanizing comments about others, especially when they’re not around. An uncontrolled tongue can be deadly, destructive, and cause terrible damage. The Bible compares it is to a raging fire that can spread destruction very quickly. An untamed tongue can inflict irreversible damages. Nothing can so identify us as Christians as our ability to control our speech. But this is not easy. Scripture even recognizes that “No human being can tame the tongue”, and that “it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison”. So to tame the tongue is not something we can do by our human power or might; it is only by the Spirit of the Lord. Consequently, we must constantly pray to the Holy Spirit to give us increasing power to deal with our emotions, monitor and filter our speech, and diligently exercise self-control in moments of anger.

(c) An attitude of holy piety, which involves rejecting acts of wickedness, not being part of anything that celebrates the wicked, doing what we can to honor and celebrate those who fear God, and showing respect and having reverence for holy things.

(d) Exercising economic discretion, which includes avoiding risky investments, not letting greed pervert our sense of justice, not letting the desire for money dominate our thoughts, staying away from extorting others, and giving to others with no strings attached. It is always good to be generous because generosity breaks the hold money can have on us.

After laying out these precepts, the Psalm concludes by making a declarative promise, that those who live by these standards will experience an unshakeable stability in their day-to-day lives. In other words, the drama, chaos, duplicity, and confusion that flood our lives can be abated by internalizing the precious words of this Psalm. But we must recognize that these are not easy standards to meet. We are never going to be able to live up to these standards on my own accord. We must rely on the grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lived it, and on the power of the Holy Spirit to work out these virtues in our lives. So we need to read this Psalm, constantly, first as a check-and-balance system to monitor our Christian altitude, and secondly, as a constant reminder of our need to stay very close to the Holy Spirit as we constantly seek God’s grace to become the best version of ourselves.

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