When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

Psalm 8:3-4

Sonnet for Psalm 8

They came, alone, in groups, for the free food.
We served them all, smiles hidden by our masks,
Wondering what good it would really do - 
This meal that we gave them, no questions asked.
Did they know? - hot, limping, tired - that they were 
All fashioned by God;  lower only than 
Angels, crowned with God's glory and honor,
All walking around shining like the sun?
I look at the heavens, the work of your 
Hands, and it all amazes. The stars, moon, 
Planets. But this makes my heart truly soar - 
Looking in the eyes of my siblings, born
In your image, made with such love. O Lord,
How majestic you are in all this world.

This sonnet began to be born in me the day my wife and I served lunch at our local soup kitchen. I thought about this psalm, and also about those famous words from Thomas Merton – “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” I looked at the people we were serving, at the challenges that they were living with, and the smiles on their faces, and I felt nothing but love.

Merton’s words that I refer to in this sonnet are so powerful that I want to quote them at greater length:

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . . . But this cannot be seen, only believed and ‘understood’ by a peculiar gift.”

If only we could see each other that way all the time, the world would certainly be a better place! Here, then, is an excerpt of Psalm 8, along with other scripture readings I had in mind when I wrote this sonnet, followed by the sonnet once again, and a closing prayer:

Psalm 8:3-9

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, 
  the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them, 
  mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God, 
  and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; 
  you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
  the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, 
  whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Sovereign, 
  how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Scripture Readings

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. – 1 John 3:1

Sonnet for Psalm 8

They came, alone, in groups, for the free food.
We served them all, smiles hidden by our masks,
Wondering what good it would really do - 
This meal that we gave them, no questions asked.
Did they know? - hot, limping, tired - that they were 
All fashioned by God;  lower only than 
Angels, crowned with God's glory and honor,
All walking around shining like the sun?
I look at the heavens, the work of your 
Hands, and it all amazes. The stars, moon, 
Planets. But this makes my heart truly soar - 
Looking in the eyes of my siblings, born
In your image, made with such love. O Lord,
How majestic you are in all this world.

Closing Prayer

O Lord, how majestic you are, and how amazing that you have created us in your very image! Life in this broken world can cause us to forget this great truth. When it does, help us to remember it. But even more, help us to remind others. Every child of this earth is your child, loved by you and made in your image. Help us to remind them all that they are walking around shining like the sun. Help us to see our brothers and sisters as you see them, and help us to love them as you love them. In Jesus’ name. Amen

4 thoughts on “Sonnet for Psalm 8

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