People Of Praise

People of Praise

I am always amazed when a part of the Mass jumps out at me and seems brand new, even after hearing it thousands of times. This week, I had praise and worship on my heart. I was wondering how I could do a better job at making my children grateful for all the little things we have grown accustomed to and take for granted. I sincerely hope they will never grow up to echo this prevalent thread of entitlement and victimization that runs rampant through our culture. I was thinking the antidote to that has to be a heart full of praise because when that’s the case how can there be room for anything else? Well, apparently the church and her 2000 year-old wisdom thinks so, too. I heard a part of the Eucharistic prayer this week for, what seemed like, the first time! Listen to this part of the Mass:
Priest: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give Him thanks and praise.
People: It is right and just.

“It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere, to give you thanks Lord, holy father, almighty and eternal God… And so, with all the Angels and saints, we praise you…”

It is not merely right and just to give thanks to God, rather, it is our duty and our salvation, and not just when we feel like it, but always and everywhere. These are the words spoken every single day, in every Catholic church in every corner of the world. Perhaps they have become so routine that their meaning doesn’t always register, but I was blown away by their wisdom in that moment. This is what I need to instill in my children. This is what I myself need to live more fully. It is right there in the holy Mass, which is a direct result of the scriptures and the deposit of faith (the teachings given directly by Jesus and his apostles). It struck me once again that there really is nothing new under the sun. A heart full of Praise is not merely a timeless antidote to the problems of the day, but it is a call to action that serves to keep God at the heart and center of our being. I think it is an action that has been overlooked and has gradually lost importance in our time and culture. We feel entitled to a rose garden, even though we were never promised a rose garden. We were only promised that all would be fulfilled in Heaven and all that we have that is good is from God in the first place. Nothing is our own doing.

So, as we face the storms in our lives and the mounting storms in the world, we need to keep Praise ever on our lips. When I am asked how I cope with the tragedies I have experienced, my answer is faith in God, the promise of Eternity and praising He who is sovereign over all. When I am asked for advice and prayer in a difficult situation, my first thought is to Praise God. In any difficult situation, especially a painful circumstance, I say, Praise God in it. It doesn’t mean you have to feel joyful or in the mood to praise, it means you should be obedient to the command we are given in scripture. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus ». (1Thes 5:18)

It is our duty and salvation to praise God. We are created to spend Eternity praising God alongside the choirs of angels. It is our duty now, so that when we are saved it will be our Joy. While it is certainly not the only thing we will do in Eternity, it will be something so infinitely fulfilling that we can’t really grasp it in the here and now. For the time being, we have to practice and learn to let praise flow out of us. When times are good that isn’t so difficult, but when times are difficult is when we need to call on this fundamental command. It is only in living a spirit of Praise that we cease to live a spirit of complaining, fear, anger, discontent, victimization and woe-is-me. The absence of this praise is often the absence of trusting that God is sovereign over the situation.

Always and everywhere we should Praise God. To be sure, this is a radical call. It’s one thing to be thankful to God for Life and Love in any season, but it is another to actually be thankful for our trials. Still, no matter the situation or circumstance, always and everywhere, we should first and foremost be thankful. Do we Trust God that our sufferings and trials have a divine purpose? Do we have the humility to let God be in charge instead of making our own angry demands? We have got to learn to be a people of Praise and Thanksgiving, because anything less means we are not giving God His due, in every circumstance, including the horrific, sad and terrible. When a loved one dies, for example, praise and Thank God. If you don’t know what in the world you would be thankful for in that situation, then I humbly suggest that now is the time to figure it out.

I am thankful for the hope and belief that my children and my mom are in heaven and beholding the beatific vision as we speak. I am thankful for all that will be accomplished through their death that could not be accomplished in their lifetime. I am thankful that I need and rely on God and His grace to stumble through the dark hours. I am thankful that He loves me enough to allow me to be refined and tested in fire. I trust Him and thank Him that I will emerge better than before. I thank Him for all the ways my life is made better because I knew and loved those people. I am thankful that death never has the last word. I am thankful that we will be reunited and they are now preparing a place for me and the rest of our family. I am thankful for the trial and the suffering and the fire because to God, I am gold, and strong enough to withstand it.

There is never a wrong time to give God praise and the really beautiful thing is that praise is a gift we give to Him, yet it is we who benefit. God does not need our praise. He doesn’t have an ego that needs inflating or reassuring. He allows us to praise Him and in so doing we are transformed! Our hearts, minds, and words become more united to God and less united to the worldly attitudes that surround us.

Let us pray for one another in this important endeavor. May we become a People of true Praise!

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“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13)

( Psalm 9:1-2) I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

(Psalm 19:1) The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

(Psalm 7:17) I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

(Psalm 44:8) In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever. Selah

(Psalm 147:1) Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

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Praise

Whenever I meet someone new and the conversation comes around to the fact that I have eight children, with one already in heaven, there’s an extremely good chance my new acquaintance will say, “I just don’t know how you do it”.  I get that an awful lot.  Usually in the moment I just say something generic like, “By the Grace of God” or “I really don’t know how I do it either, I just do”.

And for sure, taking care of a big family and household requires a large degree of just putting my nose to the grindstone and pounding it out.  Sometimes it’s more of a ‘divide and conquer’ approach.  Sometimes it’s a ‘hire a sitter and run away’ approach.

Really though, there is one constant, through the difficulties, the joys, the grief of loss, the stress, the momentous occasions, the pregnancies and the labors, proud moments and not-so-proud moments.  Through it all I praise the Lord.  I thank Him for anything and everything.  And no matter how awful the situation or the circumstance there is always a reason to Praise.  In the lowest of lows, it’s simple, elemental. I praise Him for creating me and loving me.   And believe me when I tell you there are times that I just don’t feel like praising anyone or anything!  In those moments I pray for the grace to give God praise and then just do it.  It’s sort of like putting a smile on your face when you are angry or upset and don’t feel like smiling.

A really beautiful thing happens when you do that.  The outward expression transforms the inner being.

And then there are times when I’m simply overflowing with thankfulness and I can’t help but let the Praise flow from my lips.  Sometimes I’m so full of that inner joy and happiness that can only come from God that I think there can’t possibly be more.  It is then that the Lord proves me wrong and gives me more.  Those moments leave me in awe and wonder of His immeasurable goodness.  To be full of Joy is a gift in itself, but to have that gift multiplied really transcends the human understanding.

When we praise God it transforms something within our being and not of our own power but by God’s power.  He doesn’t need to hear our thanks – He knows how great He is – but we need to give Him thanks and He knows the incredible gift this is for us and gives it without limit.

St. Paul commands in his first letter to Thessalonians (5:18) “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zecha...

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zechariah writing, “His name is John”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Both the old and the new testament are chock full of instances of praising God.  I love the account in Luke of the birth of John the Baptist.  His father, Zechariah, was visited by the angel Gabriel and is told that his wife will bear a son in her old age, but Zechariah doubts and is made mute until it comes to pass. When the time finally arrived and he declared in writing the name of his son, “Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed and he began to speak, praising God” (1:64).  I can imagine he must have had a LOT to say after being struck silent for so long but the only thing on his mind and heart was praising God.

And then there’s King David.  I have this vision of the great and mighty and highly favored warrior leading his men home from victorious battle and singing and dancing and praising God the whole way.  Here was a man of power, revered by men, who’s entire being was focused on praising and worshiping his God. I’m struck by the humility he demonstrates by this act of praise.

Call to mind the scripture in Matthew (18:3) “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.   Jesus is speaking here of humility; Unless you become humble like children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  God places a pretty high value on our humility because in the absence of pride our will becomes secondary to His perfect and Holy will for our lives. We are able to see the truth and simplicity of our purpose beyond the everyday details that necessarily cloud our minds and hearts as adults.  We become less burdened by the world and more filled by the supernatural.

When we praise God like David did we step outside of our selfishness and pride and ambition and thereby submit to humility.  We momentarily shed our pain and sorrows and troubles to give Honor and glory and accolade to the Creator of every living thing.  Just as it’s impossible to smile and frown at the same time, it is impossible to remain unaffected internally when you put on this external armor of praise.

When our son died and the grief was overwhelming and consuming my best defense was to call on the holy name of Jesus and put on this armor of Praise.  It gave God an avenue to lift me out of the blackness of pain and sorrow and into the light of His grace.  And it worked and continues to work every single time.

Join me.  Close you eyes, raise your hands, and open your heart and your mouth…

Thank you Lord Jesus, I praise you and thank you and give you all honor and glory and praise.  I love you and adore you and I thank you for being Lord of my life and Lord of my heart, I thank you for being intimately involved in every detail of my life.  Thank you for your providence and your goodness. Thank you for Loving me and creating me and KNOWING me.  You are Lord of Lords and King of Kings, you are my Lord and King. You are my savior and friend. Thank you Lord. I give you all praise and thanksgiving. I glorify your holy name. Thank you for all your creation. I Praise you Jesus for every good and holy thing. I praise you for all that is righteous and good.  Thank you for your sacrifice of Love for me, thank you for the example you gave me.  Thank you for your Holy Spirit living within me.  I Love you Lord, I thank you and I praise you. I praise you Lord, I thank you Lord, I thank you Lord, I thank you Lord…..