On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we stopped off en route from Jerusalem to Jericho at the place known as the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Though probably not so named when the psalmist was writing, the valley’s name captures in a poetic way the journey of grief and loss.
As we looked down into the valley from a hot desert hill, it was easy to imagine robbers hiding behind the large rocks and attacking solitary travelers, like the man helped by the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37).
No doubt people walking that road would have recited Psalm 23 to bring them courage and an assurance of God’s presence with them.
Perhaps the good Samaritan also had these verses in his mind and heart as he anointed the man with oil and left more money with the innkeeper than was immediately required. This enabled the injured man to dwell in goodness and mercy for as long as he needed to.
“The shadow of death” is a phrase that also occurs in two of my favorite scripture passages:
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isa. 9:2, KJV).
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
All these passages involve a journey—from the shadows into the light, from hurt to healing, from death to life. And that journey is not just a beautiful metaphor. It is an actual path that each of us must walk day by day.
Lord, lead me from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality. (An ancient Sanskrit prayer)
The imagery of sheep plays a prominent role in three of this week’s readings. Psalm 23 uses the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep as its guiding metaphor. The Lord is our shepherd and leads us to safe and fertile places. Even when we pass through a dark valley, the Lord is there protecting us with a shepherd’s weapon, a staff. In the Gospel reading, Jesus describes himself as a shepherd who calls his sheep. Because they are his, they hear his voice. In Revelation, Jesus becomes the sheep—or more specifically, the Lamb that was slain on our behalf. Those who endure will praise the Lamb forever. Acts is different in that it focuses on a resurrection story, a manifestation of God’s power working through Peter.
Read Acts 9:36-43. How can you be a witness and a vessel for God’s activity?
Read Psalm 23. Reflect on the questions the author poses in Tuesday’s meditation. Allow God’s guidance and correction to be comforting.
Read Revelation 7:9-17. How does knowing Christ as both Lamb and Shepherd help you work to bring about things not yet seen?
Read John 10:22-30. How does your faith allow you to hold your convictions without needing to grasp tightly to certainties?
Responda publicando una oración.