Fr. Mark's Homily - October 17, 2010
Prayer – the battle of prayer
Over the last few weeks we have been re-focusing our attention to re-discover what we are about as a parish, what God is calling us to. I have stated that our primary mission and purpose as a parish is to “contemplate the face of Christ” and to reflect His face to others. We do that in many ways, but it starts with us knowing Christ personally by experience, not just head knowledge or hearsay, what others have told us about Him. Jesus Christ is the centerpiece and goal of history. In Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Councils document on the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, the Church Father’s re-stated what the Church has always taught saying, “The Lord (Jesus) is the final end of human history, the point toward which the aspirations of history and civilization are moving, the focus of the human race, the joy of all hearts and the fulfillment of their desires” (art. 45). This document also states, “The way in which the earthly and heavenly city interpenetrate each other can be recognized only by faith”(art.40). Putting these two statements together the Church is saying that it is impossible to understand the purpose and meaning of human history apart from God’s plan for it in Jesus Christ, in whom He will restore all things. It is also impossible to understand the purpose and meaning of our lives individually, who we are, if we do not come to know Jesus Christ. He is the goal of all human history and if miss Him, we miss the very purpose of human history, our lives and our existence.
Two weeks ago I shared an overall vision or direction that I believe God is calling us to at this time in the history of our parish. Part of that vision was a call to prayer. I said it was the weak link in the vision and without being birthed in prayer the vision would fail to come to pass. Today I am beginning a series of homilies on prayer for this is where we need to start for that vision to unfold. Without prayer we cannot know Jesus Christ and since he ought to be the centerpiece and goal of our lives we need to be a people of prayer. Today’s Scriptures readings are all about prayer. As Catholics we need to read the Scriptures with the “mind of the Church.” We use the principle of “typology” as one of the ways we interpret Scripture. Typology means people, places and events that are recorded in Sacred Scripture represent, foreshadow or are types of future people, places or events that bring about their ultimate meaning and fulfillment. Moses in our first reading is a “type” of the person of Jesus Christ. We see in this reading that the People of God are in a battle with their enemies the Amalekites and Moses with his hands raised is interceding before God on their behalf. While his hands are raised in prayer the Israelites prevail in battle. When his hands fall down the enemies of God’s people prevail. The principle is that we can only prevail in our lives (and we are in a battle) when we are living a life of prayer each day. Know it is important to know that Moses as I said is a “type” of Christ and we know from the Book of Hebrews that Jesus Christ is our great high priest and He intercedes for us at the right of God always, but we must do our part and pray in order our to win the battle we find ourselves in as Christians.
According to the Catholic Catechism confirms we are in a battle as Christians stating, “The spiritual battle of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer”(CCC# 2726). If you don’t think prayer is battle have you tried it lately? Let us look at what and who we battle against in prayer. First, we battle against the tempter (Satan) who does everything he can to turn us away from praying and deep union with God. It has been said, “those who he cannot make bad, he keeps busy.” I have also said, “Busyness does not equal holiness.” Busyness is not a prerequisite to get to heaven, but holiness is. So, we battle against the devil who will do whatever he can to keep us from praying. He will keep us busy telling us there is so much to get done, he will try to discourage us in many ways, he will tell us God is not listening to us, he will put obstacles such as people to take up our time in other activities, he uses mental distractions and even tries to attack our health to discourage us. He uses many tactics but all have the same purpose: at all costs keep God’s people from praying for he knows the power of pray to bring about deep and intimate union with God, he knows that prayer will weaken and destroy his power over people’s lives, he knows the power of pray to bring souls to salvation in Christ, he knows the power of prayer to open hearts and minds so that God can show us His plan for our lives and give us His good gifts and graces.
In the battle of prayer we fight against ourselves. We fight against the false attitudes and mentality of the world that tell us that in order to be of value we must be producing something or doing some activity that we can measure tangibly with our natural senses. If we can’t say to someone, “I was doing this or that” so they can measure us by some human standard we feel inadequate. Whereas, if we spent time with the One of Infinite value, we would find our own great value and self-worth in Christ and we when we come out of our “prayer closest” what we do will accomplish things that will bear fruit for eternity. We fight against our own pride that says we are self-sufficient for to pray one must come before God with a humble and contrite heart. Humility is the foundation of the spiritual life and it is where prayer begins. We fight against our desire for comfort and worldly pleasure – it is much easier to watch that TV program, play that game, eat that snack, have that knap – all things we enjoy doing, not necessarily bad, but they can keep us from praying So in the battle of prayer we fight against ourselves.
Friends in Christ, in our gospel today we hear, “Jesus told the disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” In many other parts of the gospel Jesus teaches on pray, He says, things such as “watch and pray.” He tells us to be “vigilant” and “alert” all references to prayer. This call to prayer is not my call but it is the Lord who is calling us to pray, as individuals, as families and as a parish corporately. The psalm today says, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from where will my help come. My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” This speaks of prayer. Prayer is both as gift of grace and a determined response on our part (CCC #2725). Will we hear the voice of the Spirit calling us to prayer? Without prayer we cannot put out into the “deep waters of faith.” Our success as a parish and as individuals will be judged by God by whether we were faithful to what He called us to. One of the things that we are all called to do as Christians is pray, so let us begin there. Over the course of the next several weeks we will look at: what is prayer, how can we have structured time of prayer, what we should we pray for, different ways of praying, how do we hear God’s voice, how do we discern it is God’s voice we are hearing. These homilies will be posted on our website so they can be referred to in the future. I conclude today with one of God’s many promises for those who seek Him in prayer, “I know the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for misfortune, plans that will give you a future full of hope. Then you will call upon Me and pray to Me and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart” (Jer. 29:11-13).