Sunday, October 16, 2016
Prayer can change history, so maybe it'll change this election! (Sunday homily)
The readings obviously focus on prayer –
specifically, on persevering in prayer, which is the real trick, isn’t it?
Everyone believes in prayer; and everyone prays.
The really hard thing is to stick with it and see it through.
So my homily today will be about habits,
and specifically, the habit of prayer.
When our boys and girls groups meet each month,
one of the things our leaders and I teach our children is about virtue.
And the key thing about virtue is that it is a habit.
God designed us so that we operate according to habit.
When I get up in the morning, I have certain habits and so do you.
We don’t have to think too much about brushing our teeth,
getting the shower going, and so forth. That’s how habit works.
When habit works for us, it’s great.
And when it works against us – that’s what we call vices –
that’s a problem.
Habits, both good and bad, are a kind of auto-pilot.
Before we know it, we’re unconsciously lighting a cigarette
or clicking on a questionable website.
So how do we break bad habits? There are lots of things people do,
but they all aim at turning off the auto-pilot,
and making us more aware.
For example, do you know what a “curse jar” is?
It works like this: every time you take God’s name, or use a four-letter word,
a dollar goes in the jar. And then you have to give that money away!
It also helps to replace a bad habit with something better.
Say you go to a party, and you are resolved not to drink too much.
If all you do is stand around, wishing you had another beer,
guess what’s going to happen?
But if instead you focus on something else that’s fun,
chances are a lot better you’ll have a great time and not get snockered.
Keep doing it, and in time, you replace a bad habit with a better one.
Let’s drill in on the habit of prayer.
And let’s first ask, Why do we need prayer?
We need prayer the same way an airplane needs a guidance system,
so it doesn’t get off course.
Prayer is our guidance system
so we keep focused on what really matters.
Also, notice what happened in the first reading.
The success of God’s People on the battlefield
depended on Moses persevering in prayer. Why should that be?
God didn’t need Moses at all – God could do whatever he wanted.
In fact, God chooses to include us in his plans.
He came to Mary and asked her to be the mother of Jesus.
Jesus, in turn, chose to build his Church upon the Apostles.
So prayer is important because God is counting on it.
Have you considered the possibility that your prayer – my prayer –
may be the key ingredient in changing someone’s life,
in changing the course of world events? In fact, we know this is true!
Ninety-nine years ago, Mary the Mother of God
appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal.
Mary showed the children a vision of hell,
and she told them about events that would come to pass.
No doubt you’ve heard of this.
But here’s something I never noticed until very recently.
Let me read you the words of Sister Lucia, one of those three children.
This is what she said Mary told her and the other two children:
You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go.
To save them, God wishes to establish in the world
devotion to my Immaculate Heart.
If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved
and there will be peace.
The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God,
a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI.
Did you hear that? “If what I say to you is done…
there will be peace…but if people do not cease offending God,
a worse one will break out”!
If we had listened to the Blessed Mother,
we might have prevented World War II!
And, in fact, the pope and God’s people did finally listen,
and Pope John Paul II consecrated Russia
to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1985…
and there was no World War III!
So yes, it’s essential to develop a habit of prayer;
to be trained in spiritual combat. Yes, we all get busy,
but I doubt few of us get so busy
we don’t take a shower and put on clean clothes day after day.
I saw an article online that I want to share with you.
I put together a handout that summarizes it,
which the ushers will have at the end of Mass.
It is by Father John McCloskey, and it’s called,
“The Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People.”
Here’s what Father suggests:
1. The morning offering – which is a prayer prayed first thing
in the morning, consecrating the entire day.
It’s also a way to see your day, and all that comes,
through the lens of faith.
2. At least 15 minutes of silent prayer –
this is when we share our needs with God,
and listen to him speaking to us.
3. Fifteen minutes of spiritual reading.
4. Participation in daily Mass
and receiving communion in a state of grace.
Obviously this is the most difficult for many.
5. Praying the Angelus at noon each day.
It just takes about 3 minutes, but it’s a great break
and reminder of what matters most.
6. Praying the Rosary each day.
This was the prayer that Mary recommended, at Fatima,
to change the world – that could have averted World War II,
and did, in fact, avert World War III.
7. A brief examination of our conscience, and our day,
at the end of each day.
Father also makes the point that we shouldn’t expect
to put all these into practice all at once.
Instead, add a habit one by one.
And he is right when he promises this won’t take time away;
it’ll add time to your day,
because you’ll have a better day with these habits.
Maybe you’re thinking, prayer is great, but what’s the urgency.
Have you paid any attention to this election?
We have two awful candidates! We’d better get praying!
Now, there might be someone here who can say,
“Well, my spiritual life is right on target.”
Then you don’t need this.
But for the rest of us, please feel free
to ask for one of these handouts from the ushers.