Thursday, February 6, 2014

Let Your Heart Be Filled With Joy

Dear Friends,

Let me share with you thoughts from a recent homily of our Holy Father, Pope Francis.   His words were his reflection on a scene presented in the 2nd Book of Samuel.   The Holy Father speaks of a need all of us have in a world that is cluttered, in a world that has become so technical, in a world where the simply joy of praise has, I believe, fallen to the wayside for so many Christians.

"King David offered sacrifice in honor of God," the Holy Father said.  "Then his prayer became exultant... it became the prayer of praise and of joy, and he began to dance.."  We read in Samuel "David danced (highlighting mine), he danced before the Lord.  Pope Francis read these word and then said, "This is an example of the prayer of praise."  He danced.  Imagine what the reaction would be if, during a liturgy, liturgical dancers participated in a dance during the Sanctus, the "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts ...."

Prayer of praise is what we rarely offer to the Lord.  Far from our normal ways of praying, our asking for something from our God or again far from those prayers of thanksgiving.  The Pope noted that this kind of prayer does not come easily to most contemporary Christians.  Who today would "behave" as Sara did when Isaac was born?  "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears (about what happened to Sara) will laugh over me."  Yet, the 90 year old mother for the first time, laughed and danced for joy when her son was born.  Even King David, expected to be a man of formality as the king, danced before the Lord.  These two people knew what it mean to offer prayer of praise to the Lord.

The Pope noted that we can easily stand in a stadium and scream whenever a favorite team scores a goal, a touchdown, a home run or drops a ball through the hoop from mid-court.  We shout, we hit each other on the shoulders, etc. etc.  Yet, bring the same crowd, or at least some of that crowd, to a church for a "celebration of the liturgy," and suddenly most have no voices.  Composure seems to place our hearts in a vise!

The Holy Father reminded those attending his Mass that giving praise to God is "totally gratuitous.... We do not ask, we do not thank.  We praise:  you are great. 'Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.'"  "The joy of praise leads us to the joy of celebration."  And he further says that those who "close themselves into the formality of a cold, measured prayer perhaps end up ... in the sterility of formality."

After reading the Pope's reflection, I turned to YouTube's collection of music of praise.  I was surprised by the collection.  I spent the next half hour hearing songs of praise, adding my voice to the silence in my chapel!

When we are celebrating a liturgy, let it become a celebration.  Often times we priests hear a complaint:  the liturgies are so boring!"  Indeed they are boring when we restrict praise to God!
Lift up your hearts.  Let God fill your heart with joy .  But don't everyone come dancing up the aisle!!! And, God forbid, don't clap your hands when the music seems to fill us with genuine joyful celebration!!!!!!!

Oremus (et cantemus cum jubilatione - and let us sing with jubilation) pro invicem!!!

Fr. Milt