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Rejoice in the Lord

Our Responsorial Psalm, for this Sunday, the 13th Sunday in ordinary times, is: “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord”. What a beautiful acclamation, and yet, what a difficult time to appreciate it, living, as we are, in this pandemic environment that is marked with racial tensions, sickness and pain, loss of loved ones, anguish, bigotry, desperation, poverty, unemployment, and sorrow.

It is fairly easy to trust in God's love, to rejoice in his salvation, and to sing to His goodness when things are going very well. I can remember plenty of those times in my life, and I am sure many of you do, also. But there are those other times, aren't there?; times when storms hit and sorrow fills the heart; when days are dark and prayers seemingly go unanswered; when hope seems to fail us and we wonder whether God exists; whether He cares, and whether He is even there for us; faith takes a downward spiral, singing forever the goodness of the Lord sounds implausible, and our song is more like “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”.

The Psalmist says, “I would have lost heart if I had not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). A friend of mine told me, some time ago, that “The greater our memory of how good and gracious God has been to us in the past, the more likely we are to praise Him in the midst of present storms in our lives.” Yes, as dark as any hour may be, if we look back, we will always see a number of enduring markers and reminders of God’s love and promises that can help us get through present difficulties.

I remember the story of a thirteen-year-old girl who was invited to a revival by her friends, and the theme of the revival was “Rejoice always in the Lord”. After the revival, she gave deep thought to what was said. When she got back home, she went to her mum with the question: “Mummy, have you ever found yourself rejoicing and praising the goodness of God, even though you were in big-time trouble?” Mum thought for a moment and then said, “Hmmm, Yes, I have”. “How possible is that, mum, come on be honest”, the girl retorted. Her mum replied, “By remembering the many times God has rescued me in the past; the many times He has been good to me; the many times He has been there for me. Those memories give me the confidence to believe that God will rescue me, yet again and again, no matter what, because He never changes. He never stops bringing His power of love and mercy into every human situation of pain and suffering, if only you can trust in Him.” Then reaching out to the kitchen table, she picked up her bible, opens it to Psalm 145, and said to her daughter, “Here is what the Bible says, ‘I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your… wondrous works and … utter the memory of Your great goodness, and therefore shall sing of Your righteousness’” (verse 5-7). At his juncture, the girl’s dad, who was watching a football game, lowered the TV volume and said, “Helena, some things are true about God regardless of what is going on with our lives. When we are in the midst of a storm, it may be hard for us to understand the ways God expresses his love for us. But God never stops being good. I think that many a time, we are the ones that stop being grateful for past blessings just because we are so focused on our present need. Always remember that we are the hands that bring about the goodness of the Lord to others”.

I was so touched by this story that my heart found words in this prayer: “Good and gracious God, sometimes, in the midst of life-storms, You seem so distant, as though you have forgotten me, and I feel like you are looking the other way and not paying attention to what is going on in my life. Please grant me the grace to always trust and to rejoice in your goodness, and to remember how you have been there for me in the past. Let my faith in you be built upon the unshakable foundation that is Jesus Christ, your Son, and let me be an instrument of your healing-hand-and grace to others, Amen. Forever, let us sing to the goodness of the Lord.

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