Message: Prayer holds together our lives, our families, our parish, our world. We depend on the solidarity of prayer.
Last week we concluded a homily series titled "Trust no Matter What." The final example of trust was a young Jewish woman (Edith Stein) converted to Christ by reading the Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila.* I'd like to use St. Teresa to make a transition to our November series on Solidarity.
In one sentence St. Teresa sums up what I was trying to say about trust: "Trust God," she says, "that you are exactly where you are meant to be." Let me repeat: "Trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be."
By whatever strange path you have come to this place, God has put you right here, right now - and he has a plan for you. His plan involves solidarity - joining yourself to others. That is our theme for November - solidarity. Trust leads to solidarity.
November begins with two celebrations of solidarity: All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day (Nov 2). These celebrations show that in God we have solidarity not only with believers here on earth, but also with saints in heaven and with our faithful departed loved ones.
St. Teresa speaks about our union with the saints in heaven. She explains it this way: In praying the Our Father we say, "thy kingdom come." A king, she say, does not come alone. He has his knights, ladies and court with him. Just so, when God comes he brings his heavenly court with him.
In God we have solidarity with the saints - those united with him here on earth as well as those already in heaven. They pray for us. In the All Saints Day reading John describes that enormous throng. We have solidarity with them and also with those who died in his grace, but are still on the way to complete union. We pray for them.
Let me use my own parents as an example. They died with the sacraments and I feel confident they are with God, but they might still be experiencing some final purification. So I continue to pray for them and remember them at Mass. Christians have offered prayers for the dead from earliest times - as did the Jewish people in the centuries before Christ (see 2 Maccabees 12:38-46). We pray for our Faithful Departed loved ones. They are part of our solidarity of prayer.
We often talk about prayer, but why do we need this solidarity of prayer? Here's how I see it. You know, certain philosophers have observed that in our natural state we are in conflict with each other. They speak about the "war of all against all." A philosopher named Friedrich Nietzsche says that the driving force of history is resentment.** One group harms another and they harm back. So resentment grows and grows. When you look at our families -and our world - it seems like we are pulling apart and we are out to destroy each other.
Nietzsche is perceptive, but he is missing something - a power greater than resentment: grace or prayer. Consider this comparison. You have probably heard about dark matter and dark energy. Scientist tell us that they make up most of our universe -about 95%. For the sake of this comparison, let's just take dark energy. Physicists calculate that this invisible energy composes 68.3% of the universe. We can't see it or even detect it, but we know it from its effect. It keeps some kind of balance and prevents the cosmos from immediately destroying itself. Well, prayer is like that invisible energy. It sustains our lives, our families, our parish, our world.
To a degree we can measure the power of prayer. University studies show a correlation between couples praying together and staying together. Couples who attend Mass together and pray daily (for example, grace before meals) have exponentially greater success in their marriages. Prayer promotes trust. Do you remember the saying, "the family the prays together stays together"? It turns out it not just a nice saying; it's a verified fact. Families that pray together do stay together. On all levels - family, parish, world - we depend on the solidarity of prayer.***
I will speak more about solidarity in the coming Sundays. Today as your pastor I invite you to pray for and with your fellow parishioners - especially for our youth. I encourage you to sign a card indicating your prayer commitment. We have a particular card for youth and children. In light of all that is happening in our world, especially the shootings at Marysville High School, it is vitally important that we make this commitment to prayer for each other and for our youth.
I would like to conclude with a prayer by St. Teresa. They call it her "bookmark." She wrote it on a scrap of paper and read it every day. She used it to mark her place in whatever book she was reading. I invite you to close your eyes and to pray it with me as I recite it:
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing,
but God does not change.
Patience obtains all.
Those who have God lack nothing.
God alone is enough. Amen.
*St. Teresa of Avila also had Jewish ancestry
**For background read Wikipedia's article on Ressentiment
***I am assuming prayer that takes seriously the Our Father, especially "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive..." That is, prayer which focuses on Jesus and his cross.
Solidarity Week 1:
Solidarity Week 2:
Solidarity Week 3:
Solidarity Week 4:
From Archives (Homlies for All Souls Day):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies (well worth listening)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
(Octubre de 2014)
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru