“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…” Psalm 23:6
Of all the psalms, the twenty-third is certainly the most familiar. Each verse is worthy of deep reflection and contemplation, making it ideal for Lectio Divina. In that vein, I spent some time with the last verse and the word “goodness” stood out strongly.
Being followed by goodness – some versions use the word “pursued” – is a curious image. I usually think of encountering goodness head-on. This occurs with people I meet whose compassion and generosity leave me humbled and inspired. Walking around my neighborhood yesterday and taking in the autumn colors and rich blue of the sky brought me in touch with the goodness of God’s creation. How would I even recognize goodness if it was all behind me?
There is a story from the Sufi tradition (the mystical branch of Islam) that tells of a man so holy the angels implore God to give him a special gift. God suggests they ask him what he wants. His response puzzles the angels but they bring it back to God. “He only wishes that he’ll never know the good he does,” the angels report. So God grants his wish. Wherever the holy man’s shadow falls, flowers bloom, people are healed, and peace is restored. In time the people forget his name. They refer to him simply as “the holy shadow.”
It’s a striking story, one I often retell to parents, teachers, and catechists as a reminder of how their own holy shadow is falling upon their children and students. In light of Psalm 23, I am seeing the story in a new way. As a Catholic virtue, goodness is recognizing how we are made in God’s image and then making choices to reflect our true identity. Perhaps the goodness that follows us is the trail we leave behind when we show kindness and mercy, when we forgive and reconcile, when we live up to our potential as beloved children of God.
Lectio Divina is a key part of Benedictine spirituality. Read more about the founder of the Benedictines – Saint Benedict of Nursia – and download activities to use in your home, school, or parish.
Read and reflect on Psalm 23 as a family. Then discuss being made in God's image and how choices reflect our true identity.
Download my Prayer for Goodness and use it to reflect on how God’s grace both meets and follows you.