Friday, February 25, 2011

The Shortest Psalm

Jumping ahead to Saturday's morning prayer, we find the shortest psalm, 117. A great scripture memory project for Catholics. Takes about 60 seconds to get it by heart.

Oh Praise the Lord, all you Nations,
Acclaim him all you peoples!
Strong is his love for us,
He is faithful forever.

 This psalm contains in a nutshell the essence of all the psalms and the highest purpose of prayer: to praise God for his infinite goodness and love.
As a kid I used to wonder why we were supposed to praise God so much.  Was the Lord eternally fishing for compliments? So egotistical that He needed us telling him how wonderful he was all the time? Would his feelings get hurt if we didn’t remember to commend him for goodness regularly? I knew God couldn't be like that, and figured it was just  one of those mysteries, like the Trinity, that we would only completely undesrstand  in heaven.

As the years went by, wise adults led me to wiser authors who had asked the same questions. I learned that God demands our praise not because He needs it, but because we need it. It’s similar to the question of why we should dress up for Mass. It’s true that “God doesn’t care how I’m dressed” insofar as it does nothing for Him. But it does a lot for us to worship God not just with our minds and lips, but with our bodies and yes, with our clothing. So to the extent that dressing up is good for us, He does indeed care.  As we say at Mass, “It is right to give him thanks and praise.” When we recognize our place in the universe — as mere creatures, and fallen ones at that, who have been miraculously elevated to the status of sons and daughters — praise is the only proper and fitting response. In praising our creator and redeemer, we are conforming ourselves to Reality and taking our rightful places in the universe. To not do so is to live in unreality, to be less than fully human, or rather, to be spiritually disabled humans. So to praise God does far more for us — for our recovery from disability to health and eternal life — than it does for him.