Praise and worship services have become increasingly popular, especially in non-denominational Christian congregations.
Such services, which are generally held in an informal setting, feature contemporary worship music usually provided by the church band and choir.
The leader of the worship service is often a singer or musician, who besides preaching, enthusiastically leads the congregation in giving praise and glory to God. The services are high energy, emotionally engaging, and make use of electronic and digital equipment to display lyrics and to project images to complement the day’s message.
Those present are led to praise the Lord with joyful song, shouts of acclamation, and whole-hearted participation.
Everything is done to glorify God and to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus.
Elements of such praise and worship services have entered many mainline congregations and can even be found at Catholic parishes.
While there are positive elements in such services, there is a risk that people may come to think that glorifying God happens only during such services.
There is also a danger that members of the congregation start to evaluate each service according to the emotional reaction it produces. The more good feelings experienced during it, the more successful the service and the greater the glory given to God.
In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 17:1-11a), Jesus speaks about glorifying God. As he speaks to God in prayer, Jesus says, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you … I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.”
Jesus glorified the Father by announcing the kingdom of God was at hand and proclaiming the truth of the Gospel.
He glorified the Father by making the love, mercy, and forgiveness of God present in his response to the sick and the hurting.
He glorified the Father by confronting hypocrisy, evil and sin.
He glorified the Father by being a faithful, loving Son, even willing to embrace the Cross.
The Father in turn glorified the Son by raising him to new life, revealing him as Savior and Lord, and lifting him up to the glory he had with the Father “before the world began.”
In Sunday’s Gospel, we also hear Jesus praying for his disciples in whom he had been glorified. “I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me … I have been glorified in them.”
Those disciples brought glory to Jesus by faithfully following him. The same is true today. We glorify the Lord by living as faithful Christians who are even willing to suffer for the sake of our relationship with Christ.
As Peter tells us in Sunday’s Second Reading, “whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.” (1 Peter 4:13-16)
This Sunday we are reminded that giving praise and glory to God involves more than uplifting words and music, more than enthusiastic worship. It involves living a life of service, sacrifice and faithfulness. As we are told when Mass comes to an end, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
© 2020 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski
May the Risen Lord bless you with his presence and peace
during this vastly different Easter Season.