Psalm 100 exhorts us to “Sing for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Thirty-five other psalms begin with this same encouragement according to my cursory search. (Psalms 8, 30, 33, 34, 47, 48, 63, 66, 84, 89, 92, 95, 98, 101 – 108, 111, 113, 115, 117, 118, 134 – 136, 138, 144 – 150)
While I begin my prayer time each day with a short bit of praise, I am not sure I fulfill the expectation of the psalms or the level of commitment suggested by Jesus’ characterization of the Greatest Commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22:37) How often does my praise come from duty and routine instead of a joyful heart?
Several years ago, our daughter Emily, who was born with Down syndrome, demonstrated how we should approach the Father with praise and worship. We were at mass and I was serving as a Eucharistic minister and just happened to be serving the isle in which she and my wife were coming forward. When she realized that she was coming to me for communion, her face lit up with that big bright beautiful smile of hers, she held out her cupped hands to receive the host and started running toward me exclaiming loudly, “Daddy!” She didn’t worry about what other people thought, for there is no guile in her, only purity of heart. It was an expression of complete and total love.
As I was blessed to witness her response and give her the consecrated body of Christ, the following thought came into my mind: This is how God must feel when we unreservedly express our love for him, full of joy in praise, worship and song, intent on devotion and devoid of any concern about what others may think.
As the Psalmist says, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” (Psalm 8:2) May we follow their example and sing hymns with enthusiasm, offer our prayers and responses with fervor, and seek the Lord with a pure heart. “Shout with joy to God, all the earth!” (Psalm 66:1)
Funny you should mention joy in worship, Bill! See, joy in worship was mentioned in last Sunday’s 1st Scripture reading in the liturgies of many Christians (the Revised Common Lectionary). God promised through Isaiah, ” I will bring [the foreigners] to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer” (see Is 56:6-8).
I pointed this out at one of the Masses at which I presided and preached last weekend because most of the congregation seemed pretty glum, solemn and not at all engaged. Maybe their glumness partly reflected all the bad news in the world these days. If so, I hope it helped some that I preached about honest wrestling with the question of suffering and God’s goodness and love. (http://ollparish.com/homilies.html)
An example of the Holy Spirit talking to multiple people about the same subject, which means it is probably important.