Thanksgiving to God for Help Received
1 I love the Lord because he has heard my voice
and listened to my cry for mercy,[b]
2 because he has inclined his ear to me
on the day when I called out to him.[c]
3 The bonds of death[d] encompassed me;
the snares of the netherworld held me tightly.
I was seized by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I cried out in the name[e] of the Lord:
“O Lord, I entreat you to preserve my life.”
5 Gracious is the Lord and righteous;
our God is merciful.
6 The Lord watches over his little ones;[f]
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Be at peace once again, O my soul,
for the Lord has shown mercy to you.
8 He has delivered my soul[g] from death,
my eyes from tears,
and my feet from stumbling.
9 I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living.[h]
10 I believed; therefore, I said,[i]
“I am greatly afflicted.”
11 In my dismay I cried out,
“All men are liars.”[j]
12 How can I repay the Lord
for all the good he has done for me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation[k]
and call on the name of the Lord.
14 I will fulfill my vows[l] to the Lord
in the presence of his people.
15 Precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death[m] of his faithful ones.
16 O Lord, I am your servant.
I am your servant, the child of your handmaid;[n]
you have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
- Psalm 116:1 Countless are the distresses of human beings and countless too are the deliverances worked by God. This psalm adapts itself to diverse situations; every believer knows the mortal dangers from which the Lord has extricated him in order to bring him to the joy of his presence. In a praying community, all can give thanks. In thanking the divinity it was the custom in the ancient East to pour a cup as a libation, i.e., the “cup of salvation” (that has been granted) (v. 13). The Jews certainly practiced a similar rite during the “peace offerings” (see Lev 7:11ff). By this act of thanksgiving, the Israelites publicly bore witness that God had saved them; this is the loftiest expression of their religion.
It is also the loftiest expression of the Christian religion. It was certainly in this spirit that Jesus recited this psalm with his disciples after having instituted the Eucharist (see Mt 26:30). Who else could have fully relied on God even through the moment of his death? Once this psalm became the prayer of Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed, it proclaimed the hope of a life and a joy that are everlasting. The priest who mystically offers the divine victim anew still says: “We offer to you, God of glory and majesty . . . the cup of eternal salvation” (Eucharistic Prayer I) and “We offer you, Father, . . . this saving cup” (Eucharistic Prayer II).
In the Hebrew text, this psalm is a single psalm, as the sense requires; in the Septuagint and Vulgate, it is two distinct psalms: Pss 114 (comprising vv. 1-9); 115 (comprising vv. 10-19).
- Psalm 116:1 The psalmist expresses love for God who has heard his prayer. For a similar expression of God’s care and people’s love of him, see 1 Jn 4:19: “We love because [God] first loved us.”
- Psalm 116:2 On the day when I called out to him: see Pss 4:4; 31:23; 34:5; 138:3. Another possible translation is: “I will call on him as long as I live.”
- Psalm 116:3 Bonds of death: see note on Ps 18:6.
- Psalm 116:4 Name: see note on Ps 5:12.
- Psalm 116:6 Little ones: just like the “poor,” the “little ones” are those who depend on and trust only in the Lord (see Ps 34:7). They have a poverty of spirit, not simply of money. Just as the Spirit of God worked on the primeval darkness to produce all that exists, so the Lord works on his little ones to produce all that is good for them.
- Psalm 116:8 The psalmist here spells out salvation in terms of earthly well-being, but in words that are true at the deepest level (see, e.g., Rom 8:10f; 2 Cor 6:10; Jude 24). Soul: see note on Ps 6:4.
- Psalm 116:9 The land of the living: reference to this life or to the temple (see Pss 52:7; 116:9; Isa 38:11), where the God of life is present; the psalmist is speaking of the world of the living as opposed to the world of the dead.
- Psalm 116:10 I believed; therefore, I said: the psalmist kept faith even in the darkest times (see 2 Cor 4:13 where this text is cited).
- Psalm 116:11 All men are liars: the psalmist avers that his enemies are telling falsehoods about him (see Pss 5:10f; 35:11, 15; 109:2-4), because all people are liars. He could also be alluding to the fact that all people offer only a false hope of deliverance. These words are cited in Rom 3:4.
- Psalm 116:13 The cup of salvation: probably the libation of wine poured out in gratitude for one’s deliverance (see Ex 25:29; Num 15:1-10). These words are used at Mass in Eucharistic Prayer I and II, as indicated in the note on Ps 116. Name: see note on Ps 5:12.
- Psalm 116:14 Vows: see note on Ps 7:18.
- Psalm 116:15 Precious . . . is the death: the psalmist indicates that God consents to the death of his faithful only with difficulty (see Isa 43:4), for death was regarded as taking away their relationship with him (see Pss 6:6; 72:13; 115:17). Some versions interpret this passage according to the dogma of the resurrection: “the death of his faithful ones has worth in the eyes of God.” See the analogous expression, “Their blood is precious in his sight” (Ps 72:14).
- Psalm 116:16 Child of your handmaid: see note on Ps 86:16.
- Psalm 116:19 Alleluia: i.e., “Hallelujah” or “Bless [or praise] the Lord”; the Septuagint and Vulgate add this line as the opening of Ps 117.