And tell the Good News!
This is the antiphon for Psalm 117, which you have probably joined in singing at mass on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year C. It’s a short psalm—just two verses long:
Praise the Lord, all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us, and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever.
That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it: we praise and glorify the Lord because of his kindness and faithfulness.
I’m a pastoral musician, and part of my job is making sure people sing. This was drummed into me from the first chord I dared to strum in front of a congregation, shaking so that I could hardly get my fingers to move. So I glance out at you all to see if you are joining in. What we are singing is your part of the Eucharistic Celebration, after all. It’s not supposed to be my solo. If you aren’t singing along on the Gloria, the Alleluia, the Eucharistic acclamations, the Lamb of God, you aren’t really participating. Oh, I know, you think you can’t sing. But it’s not about your voice. Not having a great voice doesn’t stop you from talking, does it? This is about letting your praise be heard by others. How do you give glory and praise to God if you can’t do it at mass?
But that’s not my point here, really. I’m more interested in whether you meant what you sang in that antiphon: Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. Were you thinking somebody else would go out? No, it’s supposed to be you. How are you going out to all the world? Because the world needs you more than it ever did. God has only you in your particular setting to get the word out about his kindness and fidelity.
I keep wanting to tell you not just to preach to the choir, but that actually might be the best place to start. That voice of yours—maybe if people knew you really believed God is great and worthy of praise, they might be encouraged to trust him more. Even if you sound a little raspy or out of tune, your neighbors might hear in that their permission to sing out in their own unique way.
Frankly, as a song leader, I don’t always sound that great either. Nobody can stand up there singing for an hour several times a week and not sometimes get a bit hoarse. I trust that people know it’s not about my great voice, although I have worked a lot on that, but about encouraging the whole assembly to sing along. The reason for all this is that we participate, that we lift our voices in sung prayer. The psalms remind us over and over to “Sing a new song to the Lord.” (If it were a rock concert, would you keep your mouth shut?)
We all know it’s a myth that people go to church to show how holy they are. Maybe people used to do that; I don’t know. But now we go because we know we can’t manage our lives without this loving and faithful God who is our strength. The person next to you may be hanging on for dear life, on the verge of tears, dealing with a situation that takes all their emotional energy. Your voicing of heartfelt praise and trust in God can touch the needy soul of that person, drawing them into your prayer.
I’m thinking of the people at my church and in my choir. We all need each other’s prayers. We lift each other up with our sung prayer. We know each other’s needs and sing together the words that remind us of our brother Jesus who stands with us.
Nothing gives me greater joy—I don’t think this is much of an exaggeration—not much gives me greater joy than hearing voices raised in song along with mine. And conversely, I often experience great sadness when no one opens a book to join in on the recessional song.
But that’s not important. Our work of going out to all the world awaits us. This has been our rehearsal for courageously lifting our voices. It’s safe here at mass to sing out these words, together with all the imperfect voices, letting it be heard.
We’ve let go of our pride, our vanity, just letting the song come out. Now we are ready to share our praise with all the world.