Have you ever heard a passage in Scripture and been convinced that it was crafted specifically for you in that moment?
Or have you heard a story or verse again but you are really hearing it for the first time with new ears?
Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?Psalm 24
Who shall stand in his holy place?
After a college semester in Austria, I spent a week in Ireland with my aunt. One day, I climbed Croagh Patrick, the mountain said to be the place where St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. I’m a plains girl, through and through, but I was excited to have a mini-retreat as I ascended the mountain on my own.
For several months after, I was reminded of this small pilgrimage when I would read Scripture passages that spoke of climbing mountains. Transported, the verses were enriched with the memory of my own mountain climbing experience. The view I had from the rocky summit was striking, reminding me why mountain-top experiences are so formative.
The Lord is king, let the earth rejoice,Psalm 97
Let all the coastlands be glad.
In college, I went on a mission trip that brought the sacraments to people living along the Honduran coast. We hiked to towns that had no roads and met with people who had almost nothing. My Spanish was limited, but my heart overflowed when I encountered their simplicity and their joy. Returning to campus, I longed to be in Honduras, a place abundant in beauty and where I encountered the tangible presence of the Lord.
I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and suddenly it was filled with new meaning. Over and over again I saw passages that spoke of proclaiming the Gospel to the coastlands. Although I had prayed those words many times before, it was filled with newness. The coastlands weren’t some vague notion but instead were filled with faces I had seen personally. I would remember the pride the people had as they opened their churches to us for Mass. I could imagine the moment when a girl of nine or ten gazed with me at the estrellas up above and my limited Spanish formed a bridge for our mutual awe over creation. I love the coastlands and returning to those words in Scripture returns me to the beauty I encountered in Honduras.
The father of orphans and the defender of widowsPsalm 68
is God in his holy dwelling.
God gives a home to the forsaken;
he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.
Above is one of the responsorial psalm verses for yesterday’s Masses. Before Mass on Saturday evening, we were singing this as we practiced the songs for the liturgy. Huddled around the piano, we shared a single sheet of music as we plodded through the verses. The words, however, struck me in a new way because we were singing this in a prison.
In the Catholic liturgy, these phrases are beautiful when they arise because they aren’t intentionally brought up because of our location. Instead, everyone around the globe was praying the same psalm at Mass. This weekend, I just happened to be at a prison when this passage was planned. I couldn’t help but hope they were uplifted by the fact that God did not forget them, that Scriptures penned thousands of years ago were speaking to them in their current situation. The Lord has a plan for the orphan, the widow, the homeless, and the prisoner. What is even more is that the plans involve goodness and abundance.
In the Lord’s providence, He grants us the gift of Scripture, with a hundred different meanings woven into the words. Each new encounter with God’s word is like a new encounter with God Himself: it is often surprising, unexpected, and more than we could have hoped. It speaks to us where we are and reminds us that nothing happens that is unaccounted for by God.
What Scripture passage have you heard with new ears or seen with new eyes recently?