Readings: 1 Thess 1:1-5, 8-10, Ps 149: 1-0, 9. R/ v. 4., Matt 23: 13-22.
The Lord takes delight in his people! What a word of encouragement and joy!
Rather than this being a response to the psalm, I see the psalm as response to this. If we believe that the Lord takes delight in us, we can ‘sing a new song’ of praise and thanks, we can ‘rejoice (if only inwardly) with dancing and music’; we can ‘shout for joy and take our rest’ – relax in confidence. We can ‘rejoice in our glory’ – which is precisely that the Lord takes delight in us. Sometimes we can see – have seen – the ‘right’ response to God’s love as being an obligation, responsibility. Surely the most fitting first response to being loved is joy – of which in the past we have heard too little.
If we see two people – young lovers, a couple married 40 years, a mother and infant, close friends – visibly taking delight in each other, we know we are seeing a beautiful love. To take delight in another is a high form of love.
When I hear this response at Mass I think of a morning in Avoca years ago. Weekday Mass, a handful of worshippers, including a little bevy of the village gossips, calumniators and slanderers ably lead by Catherine. I was seeing them this way when I woke up suddenly to the response ‘ the Lord takes delight in his people’. And it hit me! These are his people! And his people – in Old Testament, New Testament or present day – aren’t and never have been any great shakes , a mixture of all sorts, good and bad, saints and sinners, wise and foolish. So – if the Lord takes delight in them, I had better start trying to do the same!
I can’t say I ever came to take delight in Catherine and companions but I did try to be more positive and less judgemental – helped a lot by humour, when I discovered that Catherine’s past, known to all the village, was far more scandalous than any of the misdemeanors she was fond of finding and bemoaning! I have absolutely no doubt but that the Lord loved Catherine.
In the first reading we could say Paul is taking delight in the Thessalonians. Paul had a kind of fatherly love and affection for the communities he had set up including the Thessalonians. Not long before this letter was written, he had come to Thessalonika, preached for perhaps a few months, converted few Jews and lots of Greeks, set up the local church and then left. A short time later he is eager to know how they are getting on so he sends Timothy to find out. He comes back with a glowing report. Paul is delighted and writes to congratulate them. Often he had to admonish or correct his converts but in this letter he has nothing but praise for the Thessalonians. They have got the message and are living out of it. And we get a summary of what it means to be a Christian; they have shown faith in action, laboured in love and persevered in hope. Show faith in action, labour in love, persevere in hope – that’s it!
Then we get a summary of what it means to be a preacher. Paul brought the good news ‘not only as words but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction’. Obviously, our preaching doesn’t depend on words alone but on the power of the Holy Spirit which can come only from prayer and contemplation. Also Paul could say that the people could observe the sort of life he lived which was for their instruction. Paul could claim that his life was a preaching. He could also acknowledge that he merely started the work, the rest was the action of the Spirit.
What the scribes and Pharisees in the gospel did was exactly the opposite – bringing bad news, blocking the way and leading people astray on their way not that of the ‘real living God.’ On their way there is no love, little hope and certainly no delight.
The good news is: ‘God takes delight in you’. .If we can convince people of that, we’ve been worthwhile preachers. To preach it with conviction we too have to take delight in them!
Sr Genevieve Mooney OP