Psalm 1, A Little Catechism for The Moral Life

Let us pray for the graces we need to continue our growth in our relationship with God.

Psalm 1 is only six verses in length, but it is packed with the weight of wisdom about life and how it should be lived. It is a compact reflection on what constitutes a good life, that is, a mature, moral life. It’s a reflection on human freedom and choices and the consequences of our choices. It suggests what a mature person of faith might act like in his or her daily life. Let’s take a few moments to wander our way through it.

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in the council of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers” (verse 1). The unspoken implication here is that only one who possesses a well-trained conscience can more reasonably and effectively know the difference between right and wrong. Such a one would be able to recognize and avoid the “council of the wicked,” the ways of sinners and scoffers.

“Rather, the law of the Lord is his joy; and on his law he meditates day and night” (verse 2). How does one form one’s conscience in accord with the law of God? By studying and meditating on it regularly with humility, diligence, and faith. This is how one can come to know God and begin to have a relationship with him. It is an act of love on our part, done in response to the love God has shown us. It is in this relationship, in this knowledge of God that we see the wisdom of God’s law and, yes, it is a source of great joy to know and to live by it.

“He is like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers” (verse 3). This lovely metaphor follows logically from the previous verse. Knowing God’s law and living by it make us “fruitful in season.” When we are rooted in his law, we are nurtured by the streams of his infinite grace and we remain strong and we grow prosperous in righteousness through God’s abundant graces.

“But not so the wicked, not so! They are like chaff driven by the wind. Therefore the wicked will not arise at the judgment, nor will sinners sit in the assembly of the just, because the Lord knows the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin” (verses 4-6). Who, then, are the wicked? They are those who, for whatever reason, have distanced themselves from God and have turned away from his wisdom and love. They are the proud who have willfully uprooted themselves from the good soil of God’s graces and who are blown about like chaff on the fickle winds of their own passions. For all of their sense of superiority, they sooner or later find only ruin in their efforts.

Let us pray for the graces we need to continue our growth in our relationship with God and in our knowledge of his liberating and life-giving law. Let us ask God always for the graces we need to rise up onto our feet to begin walking in his ways this day, and all those days yet to come. Amen.

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