In his daily homily, Pope Francis spoke on the importance of freely praising God in our prayer, and warned against an attitude which can be judgmental of others who do not follow certain “formalities.”
“You’re able to shout when your team scores a goal, and you are not able to sing praises to the Lord? To come out of your shell ever so slightly to sing (His praise)?” the Pope asked during his Jan. 28 daily Mass, held in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.
Turning to the day’s first reading taken from the Second Book of Samuel, the Pope began his reflections by focusing on how David “danced with all his might before the Lord” in order to celebrate with whole of Israel that the Arc of the Covenant was returning to its home.
David’s prayer “led him to move beyond all composure” noted the Pope, highlighting that this dancing “was precisely a prayer of praise.”
Recalling how Sarah, the wife of Abraham, exclaimed that “the Lord made me dance with joy” after the birth of her son Isaac, the pontiff highlighted that it is not difficult to pray in thanksgiving or in petition, but when it comes to prayer of praise we leave it “aside – it does not come to us so easily.”
“‘But, Father! This is for the Renewal in the Spirit folks, not for all Christians!’” he said echoing the words of some Christians, adding that “No: prayer of praise is a Christian prayer, for all of us.”
Drawing attention to the moment in the Mass when we sing the “Holy, Holy, Holy,” the Pope observed that “this is a prayer of praise: we praise God for his greatness, because He is great. We say beautiful things to Him” because we are “happy for His greatness.”
Noting that some make excuses saying “’But, Father! I am not able” to do this, or “I have to” to that, he stated that “well, you’re able to shout when your team scores a goal, and you are not able to sing praises to the Lord?”
“Praising God is completely” free, the pontiff explained, and “(in it) we do not ask (Him to give us anything): we do not express gratitude for anything (He has given); we praise (Him)!”
Pope Francis then emphasized that we need to pray “whole-heartedly,” adding that it is “an act of justice, because He is great! He is our God,” and that David “was so happy, because the ark was returning, the Lord was returning: his body, too, prayed with that dance.”
“(Here is) a good question for us to pose to ourselves today,” the Pope reflected, asking “’how am I doing vis à vis prayer of praise? Do I know how to praise the Lord? Do I know how to praise the Lord when I pray the Gloria or the Sanctus? Is my whole heart really in it, or do I merely mouth (the words)?”
“What does David dancing here say to me, and Sarah, dancing for joy?” he continued, noting that “when David enters the city there begins another thing: a party!”
The Pope then recalled how Michal, the daughter of Saul, was upset with David when he returned to the palace, and asked him if he, as king, was ashamed to have danced in front of everyone.
Michal “despised David,” explained the pontiff, stating that “I wonder sometimes how many times we despise good people in our hearts, good people who praise the Lord as it comes to them, so spontaneously, because they are not cultured, because they do not follow the formalities?”
“(I mean really) despise (them)?” the Pope continued, observing that “the Bible says that, because of this, Michal remained sterile for the rest of her life.”
“What does the Word of God mean, here?” reflected the pontiff, “(It means) that joy, that the prayer of praise makes us fruitful! Sarah danced in the great moment of her fecundity – at the age of ninety!”
“The fruitfulness that praise of the Lord gives us, the gratuity of praising the Lord: that man or that woman who praises the Lord, who prays praising the Lord, who, when praying the Gloria is filled with joy at doing so, and who, when singing the Sanctus in the Mass rejoices in singing it, is a fruitful person.”
Pope Francis closed his homily by stating that contrary to this fruitfulness, “Those, who are closed in the formality of a prayer that is cold, stingy, might end up as Michal, in the sterility of her formality.”
Asking those present to imagine David dancing “with all his might before the Lord,” the Pope encouraged them to think about “how beautiful it is to make the prayer of praise.”
He concluded by urging all to remember the words of the day’s psalm, Psalm 23, which states “Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of Glory.”