Success gained by selfishness is soon destroyed … lasting joy and success come by loving our neighbours
What does it mean to praise God? We live in a world which is more and more into praising ourselves, and it feels uncomfortable to praise God whom we can’t see. Many are happier to praise pop-stars and movie actors!
Like pain management, where it is now normal to get instant pain-relief through drugs, we are more and more looking for instant happiness today, rather than planting the seeds of happiness, today, and waiting for a harvest tomorrow.
So, how can praising God today bring about the instant happiness we desire? As Fr Richard Rohr OFM points out in his talks, nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus say to praise him: Jesus only ever said: “follow me.”
So, I ask the question again: what does it mean to praise God? And a second question: if we don’t praise God, will God punish us? The answer is, NO. God does not punish us; however, it is dangerous for us: we corrupt ourselves and our way of thinking.
What is the value of praising God? Let’s reflect on the relationship between children and parents. When a child knows they have a parent who loves them, it gives them great security. And, we know from experience, the parental relationship usually runs much better when we praise our parents. But how do we praise our parents?
We praise our parents by acknowledging what they do for us, thanking them with words and little celebrations to praise them for their sacrifices: birthdays, etc. The joy they express to us during such moments of praise, are often a greater joy for us than what we have given to them.
By drawing us out of ourselves, by acknowledging our parents, we help create a culture of gratitude within ourselves: so we can avoid the temptation to make ourselves more important than others; we recognise our need for others; and, therefore, that others need us.
On the personal level we praise God, not so much by words, but by being the best that we can be. When we see an athlete excelling in sport, they are praising God. When we see a beautiful painting, the artist has praised God. etc.
But, what praises God even more, is when people are doing their best while helping other people (hence the link between “love God” and “love your neighbour”).
Imagine, two athletes running in a race, almost to the finish line. Suddenly the leading athlete stops to help a competitor who has fallen down. The leader helps the fallen person across the finishing line but, in the process, the athlete who was coming second, wins the race. Of course the winner takes home the trophy. But the audience give a standing ovation and 5 minutes of sustained applause to the athlete who sacrificed “winning” to help their competitor to finish.
When we see teachers getting rewarded for excellence in the classroom, they are praising God. When we see Mums & Dads sacrificing their time and money to help their spouse and children, they are praising God. When I think of Fr Mackintosh OMI (Australia), who gave up a promising football career to become an Oblate priest, he was praising God.
Perhaps you are not convinced by these examples of how God should be praised? Perhaps you think that attending Mass and praying the rosary are the proper way? Then listen to St Paul:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” [1 Cor 10:31]; and, “No one is to seek his own good, but the good of the other person” [1 Cor 10:24]. So, when we make lifestyle choices for the good of others, we glorify God.
And the Second Reading from Hebrews reminds us how Jesus Christ chose to suffer so that we might have life. When we seek the good of others, we are loving God. When we love others, love flows back to touch us, heal us, and bring us true and lasting joy.
Finally, the First Reading: “If you fear the Lord your God all the days of your life and if you keep all his laws and commandments which I lay on you, you will have a long life, you and your son and your grandchildren.” We also praise God by choosing not to kill, steal, cheat, etc.
FEAR is what we should have in our lives, not because God will punish us, but so that we do not lose God, by acting selfishly and not loving our neighbour. When we focus on loving ourselves, we end us suffering in loneliness and the FEAR of losing what we have.
It is a well proven fact that those who help others, are more successful, and rich, in the long term, then selfish people.
So let’s look around and see the needs of our neighbours, so that we might come together with others, or alone, and those neighbours who are suffering. The effort we put in will never be outdone by God’s generosity to us in return.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI