Homily July 23, 2006 Day of Prayer and Penance for Peace in Middle East


Before giving the homily proper, I want to call your attention to three important matters. First the Holy Father has asked us to make today a day of prayer and penitence for peace in the Middle East. Acting on Pope Benedict’s request, Archbishop Brunett has sent a letter:

The Holy Father has declared July 23rd to be a day dedicated to prayers and penance for people of all religious faiths “to implore God for the precious give of peace.” Pope Benedict XVI urges prayers for “and immediate cease-fire between warring sides,” the establishment of “a humanitarian corridor in order to bring aid to suffering people,” and the start of “reasonable and responsible negotiations so as to end the objective situations of injustice existing in that region.”

I will say more at the end of the homily about how we can observe this Day of Prayer and Penance here in Holy Family.

I also have a second letter, not from Archbishop Brunett, but from Bishop John Yanta on Modesty of Dress at Sunday Mass. In the bulletin you will find excerpts from this letter - English on one side and Spanish on the other. This letter will help moms and dads in guiding their daughters and sons. Of course, moms, you have to apply it first to yourselves. Dads too.

The third matter regards parish security. About five weeks ago we hired a security guard to watch our parking lots during the weekend Masses. Since then we have had no incident, but remember that security requires the vigilance of everyone. If you see suspicious activity, notify a staff member or call 911. Everyone is welcome at Holy Family - including thieves, but like everyone else they have to repent and go to confession, then they can take their place with the rest of us sinners.

Now, to the homily. In today’s Gospel Jesus invites his disciples to come apart to a deserted place and rest a while. This might sound like a vacation or a day off - and it could be - but what Jesus is really talking about is the need for prayer. We need to recognize and connect with the source of our existence.

A Russian fable can illustrate this. It is about a foolish boar. By boar I am not referring to the person who puts you to sleep - like can sometime happen with these homilies - but the animal, a wild pig. You have probably seen a boar - looks like an ordinary pig, only much hairier. Anyway, this boar was very greedy and if he came across an acorn, he immediately devoured it and started digging to find more. One day he dug so deep, he was tearing the roots of the Oak tree. The Oak tree spoke: “Foolish boar. Look up. I am the source of your food. If you destroy my roots, you will have no more acorns.”

Jesus is saying something similar this Sunday. Look up. See the Source of your lives. The cosmos, the universe with all its stars, galaxies and planets is like an acorn - and God is the Oak tree from which that acorn has fallen. If someone possesses God, they possess all things.

That is the reason why, last Sunday, Jesus sent his disciples with nothing - no bread, no backpack, no money in their belts. He wanted them to witness to the Source of all wealth.

A few weeks ago, I got a big surprise. One of my classmates announced that he is going to become a Trappist Monk. This priest is a successful pastor, a brilliant moral theologian and an outdoors man who enjoyed doing things like mountain biking in Alaska. As a Trappist, he will not only give up his possessions, but will be sacrificing things like sleep (they get up at 2 in the morning to pray), tasty food (no more fried chicken or fish and chips - only a coarse vegetarian diet) and freedom (he will follow a rigid schedule of prayer and manual labor). He will be exchanging those things for a life of prayer and penance. It made me think - not about becoming a Trappist monk. I know I could not do that - but it made me ask about my attitude to possessions. Do I recognize that if I have God, I have everything? Am I ready to rely totally on God?

Most of us are not called to become Trappist monks, but all of us can embrace a more simple life. One of our high school students made a calculation on what would happen if everyone here made a small sacrifice and gave the money saved to the parish. For example, a drink at Starbucks costs around $3.15. If half of our parishioners - about 1100 people - did that (or a similar sacrifice) each day and gave the money saved in the collection, at the end of the year we would have over a million dollars. Imagine what we could do with that in terms of maintaining our facilities, religious education and youth programs and aid to the poor!

All of this has to begin with prayer. Christians in the past recognized that. St. John Vianney used to spend hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. People asked him what did. He responded, “He looks at me and I look at him.” Great things will happen if we spend time apart with the Lord.

I would like to make a challenge this weekend. Our Holy Father has called us to prayer and penitence for peace in the Middle East. I would like to ask you to consider spending an hour in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I will do that myself before I head to my brother’s place. I ask you to do the same - maybe this evening or even during the night. Our world could be in the balance - and your prayers and mine could make the difference. If you are unable to come to our Adoration Chapel try to find some other place apart with the Lord where you can devote an hour of prayer for people. Jesus invites us to come apart to deserted place with him - and connect with Source of all blessings.