This surely most famous of psalms is used at Mass today. In the lectionary it is numbered as Psalm 22, which is somewhat confusing as it has traditionally been known as the 23rd Psalm, which is its number in the Bible. The Catholic church continues to use the numbering of the psalms from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, whereas other Christian traditions use the Hebrew version of the Psalms. Psalms 9 & 10 are combined in the Hebrew text but separate in the Greek, and Psalm 147 and 148 in the Greek are combined in the Hebrew. Therefore from Psalm 9 to Psalm 147, the Catholic lectionary number, listed for example for responsorial psalms at Mass, will be one less than the psalm number used by most bibles and other Christians: a source of understandable confusion when people are preparing orders of service for weddings or funerals!
But whether we call it Psalm 22 or 23, The Lord is my Shepherd is a timeless favourite. It is recited during Jewish Sabbath meals and by both Christians and Jews when praying for those recently dead. Its message of hope and comfort has reassured countless generations. God’s choice of David, the young shepherd boy from Bethlehem, to be King of Israel showed that God looks after and watches over His people and expects the leaders of Israel to take care of them too. The prophet Jeremiah in our reading today reassures the people the Lord God himself will gather the sheep scattered by poor shepherds and look after and pasture them. We hear in the Gospel today that Jesus, the new Shepherd King, having insisted the disciples come away with him to rest, simply cannot force himself to leave the crowd gathered because he saw them as sheep without a shepherd.
God never abandons us; he walks with us in the good times and the bad. He wants not just to bless us but to fill our cup to overflowing. “Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life.”