The Holy Spirit: Why Does God Command Us to Adore and Glorify Him?

Another other thing that causes a real difficulty for some people is the question, “Why does God command our worship at all?  Is this not a barbaric view of God which imagines him to be a psychologically and emotionally needy tyrant who is angered if his subjects do not constantly praise him?”

Of course, Scripture and the Catholic tradition understand that God has need of nothing, including our praise, and especially not our flattery. Indeed, many times in Scripture, God forcefully rejects the empty flattery of human beings.  What God seeks is our transformation into creatures capable of genuine love for him and for our neighbor, not ego-stroking flattery. 

But if this is so, the question then becomes, “What then is the point of commanding worship since love that is compelled is no love at all?”

The answer is that the command to adore and glorify God and love him with our whole heart, mind, and strength is for our benefit, not his. The Father has no fragile ego to protect but is, rather, all self-giving love.  That love he pours into the Son and God the Son returns it to the Father from before the foundation of world. In assuming our humanity, the Son makes that humanity (and us) part of his perfect gift of adoration to the Father, saying:

“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do; and now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made.” (John 17:1-5)

But remember the context of those words.  They are not spoken at some religious retreat in a wooded glade while sweet music is playing.  They are spoken mere hours before the torment, agony, and death that he knows is coming.  Jesus’ self-offering in worship of the Father is one that costs him everything.  And that is something we cannot do without his help.  So Paul tells us:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

This points to something profound about the nature of Christian worship: that it is something going on in God from all eternity long before it is something that we do or even think to do.  Once again, we see that grace is always prior to us; that we do not choose Jesus but rather he chooses us and that apart from him we can do nothing (cf. John 15:5, 26).  In other words, our very capacity to worship is always a gift of the Holy Spirit and our worship is, if you will, “God-kindled”.  We learn to worship God and are enabled to do so by listening to the Holy Spirit, especially in the Scriptures he inspired, by receiving his divine life in the Eucharist and other sacraments, and by imitating Jesus. Through the common life, common worship, and common teaching of the Church, we are trained to love God with body, soul, mind, and spirit and to love our neighbor as ourselves.


Leave a Reply

Follow Mark on Twitter and Facebook

Get updates by email