by Ken Rolheiser
Praise the God who praises us

A 14th Century Flemish mystic taught: “those who do not give praise here on earth shall be mute for all eternity.” John of Ruusbroec

I discovered initiative early in life, about the time I realized the family could use my help, and I picked up a broom and swept the kitchen floor after supper. Mind you I got into trouble with an older brother because he did not want any additions to our household duties.

But my mother, we called her that out of respect, had a way of rewarding initiative. Sometimes we heard her bragging about us. That was very effective. I continued this new behaviour, like bringing out sausages and buns for visiting neighbours who were playing cards.

Recalling these childhood memories leads me to the question: how does God encourage us and praise us for our good deeds? Scripture gives us some hints. Jesus tells the story of the harvesters in the vineyard. The labourers who worked for only the last hour received a full day’s wage. (Matthew 20:1-16).

Then there is the promise that if we give so much as a drink of water in Jesus’ name, we shall not lose our reward (Matthew 10:42). And there is the praise we all want to hear at the end of our stewardship journey: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the Joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:23).

In his book Well Done: Good and Faithful Servant, Steven J. Campbell talks about the Lord’s invitation to go into the harvest, which is ripe for the picking. Great hope comes with great sacrifice. Jesus endured the cross for the glory that was to follow, glory that he wants to share with us: “enter into the joy of your Lord”.

“We have another role in sharing praise that leads to encouragement. Thomas Aquinas once suggested that it’s a sin to not give a compliment to someone when it’s deserved because by withholding our praise we’re depriving that person of the food that he or she needs to live on. He’s right. Perhaps it’s not a sin to withhold a compliment but it’s a sad impoverishment, both for the person deserving the compliment and for the one withholding it” (“The Power of a Compliment”, Father Ron Rolheiser).

Father Rolheiser goes on to explain that there is a moral imperative to pay that compliment. “Love requires it. Refusing to admire when someone or something merits praise is, as Thomas Aquinas submits, a negligence, a fault, a selfishness, a pettiness, and a lack of maturity. Conversely, paying a compliment when one is due is a virtue and a sign of maturity.”

In “When We Don’t Understand” Linda Wegner says, “…it’s important to remember that a word of encouragement or a deed of kindness can minister to someone else in ways we could not have imagined.”

As I reflect on the end of life’s journey that many Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) or older face, and as I reflect on the natural decay of our physical strength, I find the greatest consolation in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “…for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

“Let not your hearts be troubled… I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).

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