“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1: 1-2). So begins the Book of Psalms, and what an appropriate beginning it is to a book of prayer. The first psalm is short, simple, and to the point. And as a result it’s message is very clear.

The psalm points out the difference between those who follow the law of God and those who do not. The righteous man or woman is one who has meditated on the law of God and chooses daily to live in accord with it. He or she is recognizable in that he or she is seen as one who is constant and noble in character, whose words and deeds are consistent with what is good, true and beautiful. The life of a righteous man or woman is more fruitful and just. This is so because all that he or she does is consistent with God’s law. The psalmist puts it this way: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers” (verse 3).

The wicked man or woman is also recognizable. He or she is inconsistent, fickle, untrustworthy and can not be counted on to do what is right. His or her actions often prove to be damaging to themselves and others. Again, the psalmist describes the wicked one in this way: “The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (verse 4). They are not rooted in truth. Their concern is only for themselves, even at the expense of others. As a result they tend to be cynical scoffers, gossipers, and liars. Their counsel cannot be trusted.

But the righteous man or woman knows the law of God, loves it, and lives by it. The righteous love God with their whole being and love their neighbors as they love themselves. The righteous one makes no gods before God, always keeps the name of God holy, and honors the sabbath; unlike the wicked one who makes gods out of every desire and gives no time to God on any day. Where the wicked deny, or are ignorant of the law and do not honor their father and mother, commit adultery, lie, steal, and covet their neighbor’s wives or goods; the righteous one respects the eternal, God-given dignity of all human beings, honors life at all stages, tells the truth, is generous and protects and defends the goods and the innate, God-given rights of all of his or her neighbors. To be wicked is easy in the moment, but such behaviors and attitudes have their consequences that cannot be avoided. The ultimate reality is that they will not find themselves in “the assembly of the just” on the Last Day. Though becoming righteous is not easy, and takes hard work, and an attitude of humility, its fruit is always worthy of a human soul. Of course, the righteous person continuously gives thanks for the graces he or she has received from God that enables them to continue to be righteous, even when surrounded by the wicked on all sides. On the Last Day, these will find themselves standing among the just in the kingdom of God, forever.

Lord, It is through your grace that we find our righteousness. Help us to know and to meditate on your law day and night, so that we may remain fruitful in all that we say and do in our lives. In you alone do we have our hope. Give us the graces we need to remain faithful to your law throughout our lives. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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