Today’s section of Psalm 118 (119), verses 41 to 48, enjoin us to move beyond merely contemplating the law to action: in particular, to testifying publicly to our faith in the public square ('before kings').
Word and deed flow from love of the law
The stanza opens by reminding us of the promise of salvation: it prophesies the coming of Christ to fulfill God’s promises in the Old Testament, and invites us individually to make that salvation our own.
It should also remind us of Christ’s promise to be with us always, able to draw on grace when we are confronted by those speaking heresy or otherwise attacking us.
And it ends with a call to action ('lift up your hands') flowing out of our love for the law and contemplation of it.
Haydock’s Catholic Commentary on these verses notes that: “Thus many even of the female sex have professed their faith boldly, with St. Agnes, St. Catharine, St. Winefrid; answering the reproachful objections that were put to them, as if it were dishonourable to be a Christian, Catholic or Papist.”
We all, be we laymen or laywomen, priests, bishops or religious, have a duty to act out our faith and speak up when it is necessary to do so, as these verses instruct.
As Cassiodorus comments:
“We must not be silent before those able to listen to reason, but we must respond bravely so that the audacity of men of ill-will does not appear victorious in their eyes…. They spoke of the Lord's testimonies because they had sought and accepted them so as to reply to those who reproached them with the word. With the strength of this support, they say that they were not confused in the presence of earthly kings who could inspire terror with their proud power, but with fearless speech uttered the truth which they had conceived in mind. It is the person whose words are refuted by reasoning who is confounded, whereas no-one can be embarrassed who is strengthened by the testimony of truth. Whatever the pressure of circumstances, we must not deny Him who says: He that shall deny me before men, I will deny him also before my Father who is in heaven.”
Here are the verses:
41 Et veniat super me misericordia tua, Domine; salutare tuum secundum eloquium tuum.
Let your mercy also come upon me, O Lord: your salvation according to your word
42 Et respondebo exprobrantibus mihi verbum, quia speravi in sermonibus tuis.
So shall I answer them that reproach me in anything; that I have trusted in your words.
43 Et ne auferas de ore meo verbum veritatis usquequaque, quia in judiciis tuis supersperavi.
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth: for in your words, I have hoped exceedingly
44 Et custodiam legem tuam semper, in sæculum et in sæculum sæculi.
So shall I always keep your law, for ever and ever.
45 Et ambulabam in latitudine, quia mandata tua exquisivi.
And I walked at large: because I have sought after your commandments
46 Et loquebar in testimoniis tuis in conspectu regum, et non confundebar.
And I spoke of your testimonies before kings: and I was not ashamed.
47 Et meditabar in mandatis tuis, quæ dilexi.
I meditated also on your commandments, which I loved.
48 Et levavi manus meas ad mandata tua, quæ dilexi, et exercebar in justificationibus tuis.
And I lifted up my hands to your commandments, which I loved: and I was exercised in your justifications.