“You make me want to shout!” Moving from somber to celebration
Wedding celebrations can sure be a blast! I have been to hundreds as a priest and have enjoyed them all. During one, I recall the bride and groom holding hands and jumping off the floor together to the song, You Make Me Want To Shout! I remember how popular the song was during my college days. It was played at most parties and people would jump and shout so much that the floor and house would shake. And at this wedding, the song captured the joy of a bride and groom who were in love. I think most people would acknowledge that there are some things in life that really do make us want to shout for joy, and that love is probably the greatest of all. The original song written by the Isley Brothers in 1959 was trying to express the joy of romantic love – of loving and being loved by another. They wrote it on a whim, but later related how it came from their own experiences in church! Yes, believe it or not, church was the inspiration for You Make Me Want To Shout! And why not? There is no greater lover than God! When a person comes to glimpse a little bit of that love, one can certainly want to shout, dance or express that inner joy in countless ways. Scripture is filled with examples. King David, when he found the Ark of the Covenant and was bringing it into Jerusalem, “came dancing before the Lord with abandon, as he and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn.” (2 Sam 6:14-15) When Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant, came to Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb “leaped for joy.” (Lk 1:44) People also rejoiced and danced when God delivered them from evil. When the waters covered pharaoh’s army at the Sea of Reeds in Exodus, the “prophetess Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, while all the women went out after her with tambourines, dancing; and she led them in the refrain: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.’” (Ex 15:20-21) When God healed a crippled man through Peter’s and John’s intercession in the Temple area, “He leaped up, stood, walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.” (Acts 3:8) Others joined in the chorus. There are times when loud and expressive praise of God flows like a river through a person. It cannot be helped and should not be stopped. The apostles experienced this on Pentecost Sunday. When the Holy Spirit filled them, they began praising God so loudly that all the visitors to Jerusalem heard them in their own native tongues. People thought them to be drunk! And they were – drunk with the wine of the Holy Spirit! Many heard the good news, believed and were baptized. The joy and praise of God’s people continues to flow through the centuries to this very day. The source of this river of grace is the heart of Jesus Christ, and it continues to well up through the church in various expressions of joy, praise and thanksgiving to the Father. How wonderful it is when we open our hearts to it and allow it to flow through us! It is a true meeting of the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual Exercise: 5 ways to find joy
1 Take some time to go through the Psalms, the Gospels or Letters in the New Testament (I would especially recommend Acts of the Apostles) and see how often you come across passages that express joy, praise and thanks to God. After reading these sections, meditate on the blessings in your life and speak out your praise of God. Pray: Holy Spirit of God’s love; Holy Spirit flowing from the heart of Jesus Christ, help me to offer praise to God. Loosen my lips that my mouth may speak your praises!
2 Another beautiful way to express gratitude to God is to be generous! As you have received in abundance, give in abundance. I know of a person who was healed of cancer. In gratitude, she gave a large sum of money to help spread the Gospel. I know of another who was very grateful for the education he received through Catholic schools, so he helped finance the building of a computer lab for his local Catholic elementary school. Perhaps you may have heard of Danny Thomas – a TV star during the 1950s and ’60s. At one point, he had only $7 in his pocket and was in despair. He did not know whether to continue his struggles in show business or not. So one day, he knelt down in a Detroit church and asked St. Jude for help. Danny had heard that St. Jude was the patron saint of hopeless causes and he figured he definitely qualified for that. Later, when he became very successful, he gave thanks to God by starting St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. It has helped countless children who might not otherwise get medical care. A generous heart is a grateful heart.
3 Listen to Christian music and if you can, sing along to it. I know some folks who turn up the volume while driving so they do not have to hear themselves. There are many fantastic songs out there by Christian and Catholic artists.
4 Go to a church prayer meeting. There are many prayer groups around that foster more expressive praise of God.
5 Some may have trouble with the emotional aspects of showing gratitude. Don’t be alarmed. The bottom-line best way to express gratitude to Jesus is to live like him. In doing so, you will be making heaven itself “shout” for joy.