Praise the Lord

Pope Francis has spoken a number of times (including here and here) about our need to praise God:

“Those, who are closed in the formality of a prayer that is cold, stingy [It. misurata], might end up as Michal, in the sterility of her formality.” The Pope asked, then, [that we] imagine David dancing, “with all his might before the Lord,” and that, “we think how beautiful it is to make the prayer of praise.”

While it’s somewhat unfortunate that the Hillsong Church (recently featured in this brief CBS report on the New York City branch) refuses to accept the fullness of truth which subsists in the Catholic Church and the grace which flows to us through the sacraments, they certainly model for us the type of fully-engaged self-giving praise to which our Holy Father may be referring (which would NOT be appropriate for Sunday Mass, but would be ideal for a mid-week prayer meeting).  Check out the first 20 minutes of their praise at today’s service in Australia:

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Seeing our sins as Jesus sees them

In today’s Gospel Reading (Matthew 21:28-32), Jesus tries to make the religious leaders aware of the lack of change in their lives in response to the action of God which is occurring in their midst.  How should they be changing?  It was well-stated in this article by (Orthodox) Fr Stephen:

This brings me to the harder word of this article: we generally do not “know the will of God” because we are sinful, broken, full of pride, anger and the other passions. We do not know the will of God because we do not know God Himself. And that knowledge, in whatever measure, comes as the fruit of repentance (meekness, humility, self-emptying).

In his exposition of today’s Gospel, Fr Francis Martin magnificently describes such repentance, and the compunction and joy which should accompany it:

Sunday’s Gospel

One of the best ways to prepare for Sunday Mass is to listen to Fr Francis Martin’s teachings on the Mass readings.  This Sunday’s Gospel is so long (please, Lord, don’t let my parish stoop to using the shortened version!) that Fr Martin had to use two 15-minute videos to cover it.  In them he reminds us that the washing of the blind man’s eyes is supposed to remind us of the power of Baptism to enlighten us.  He illustrates how we can act like the Pharisees, using the example of seeing a lady who has encountered Jesus in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal praying in tongues and us thinking that she is making a mess of things instead of seeing her new-found faith.  He emphasizes the irrefutable credibility of our personal testimony of our own encounter with the Lord.  He highlights the blind man’s expression of faith (i.e., conversion) as a result of his personal healing encounter with Jesus.  And much, much more.

My personal take-away:
Every time I see God lovingly heal someone, provide for someone’s need, protect someone, every time I see God work in someone’s life — including my own — it should build my faith and be a catalyst for my own ongoing conversion.  It should inspire in me a desire to stay close to this loving Lord.  Of course, that presupposes that I am vigilant, actually taking the time to notice how God is acting in my life and in the lives of others, which is why Fr Martin’s passionate exhortation to “fight every day for a prayer time” is so important.  Also, the example of the healed blind man increases in me the courage to take my faith into the public square and to proclaim boldly the person of Jesus our Savior.