Joy in Christ! A Covenant of Holy Witness
This talk was delivered on the last day of the 14th CFCUSA National Conference held at Houston Texas from July 4 to 6, 2008, by Ado Paglinawan, national council member and CFC missionary to Cameroon and West Africa, with this footnote "I dedicate this presentation to Joe and Suzie Tigtig, one of my first recruits in Couples for Christ, a modicum of humility and holiness and my foster parents whenever I am in Chicago. Since 1989, they have never wavered from the beginning and have kept themselves focused on the true mission and vision of Couples for Christ. I love you Joe and Susie, and I honor you."
Yesterday, you heard Frank Padilla draw a parallel between the book of Zephaniah and our recent past as a community; and how the Lord has called us to gather, gather and gather from a time of chaos, through lamentation and now rejoicing. Edwin Andrews led you to convert that joy into the concrete work of restoration and Joe de Leon appraised us of the core values needed in living in joyful praise.
Allow me today to bring all these into a synthesis in the light of current church teachings and present day realities as well as some biblical anecdotes for you to take home.
I begin by asking a question: What happens when we focus on the form instead of the substance of our faith?
1. We become infatuated with knowledge instead of holiness.
2. We become comfortable with works instead of The Word.
3. We lose our evangelistic zeal and see the world as our enemy instead of our mission field.
4. We grow insensitive to the Holy Spirit, and thus become dulled to small sins that distract us.
5. We are misdirected to focusing on our wants and needs instead of what we can give.
6. We become content with what we are instead of being driven to becoming more like Christ.
7. We lose our joy.
Earlier in Eucharist, we heard the prophetic message of the gospel find us exactly one year from that fateful Charlotte conference when CFCUSA was attacked by divisive forces.
Looking back, I can still recall the Lord's stirrings in Revelations 2 to the church at Ephesus applying to us in CFC - "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place…"
But today as we gather here in Houston, we bear witness that God has been merciful, he has hidden things from the wise and the so-called learned of the world, but has revealed to us little ones true joy in his son Christ Jesus! He has united us in spirit and preserved us from the flesh. God has been good to his remnants, he has restored us to the fervor of our first love.
For the past year, I have seen in this community a second wind going for our love for Jesus and his word. Christian Life Seminars have started to be more populated and more exciting than before. Household meetings are again joyful and productive, again a sanctuary for the weary and the heavily laden with increasing demands for more Scriptural flavor. In response, we have already conducted bible retreats for leaders in Maryland and Virginia, Houston, New Jersey and this August we are booked for New York. Chicago and Dallas are contemplating on following suit.
Today as we speak, and like never before, CFCUSA is on the same page everyday. Through our website www.cfcusa.net, all of us regardless of where we are in the 50 states can find devotional resources in print, audio and video, downloadable to our cell phones, PDAs, computers and printers. Notable among this is the House Hold Leader Newsletter that gives everyone reflections on daily scriptures in synch with the Catholic liturgical calendar, and equips household leaders with discussion materials for next week's meetings. If you have not yet tried using this resource, do so as our many brothers and sisters worldwide have already beaten you to it. Remember www.cfcusa.net.
There is new life and joy in our family and parish life. We are now removing the myth of family ministry exclusivitiy and superstructuring within CFC to bring it to the doorsteps of our dioceses. We are receiving greater challenges to more actively participate in parish catechetical system in the areas of youth, pre-Cana, and liturgical services. Rightfully, we have become an ecclesial movement fully involved with the sacraments of the CATHOLIC Church, namely reconciliation and matrimony and most especially the Eucharist.
We have become more Pro-Life and deliberate. Our collaboration with Healing the Culture has not only given us a basic framework at understanding the movement but at developing life philosophies that are chewable and pertinent to our daily life, and with expansion possibilities that could even mature into an online learning center in collaboration with Gonzaga University of Spokane, State of Washington.
We are beginning with our Work With the Poor on the right foot. Nationwide consultations have preceded development of systems, ending Manila's domination of best practices. New Jersey has proposed a transparent and fully accountable system of financial management and controls from individual free-will giving on this end to actual program implementation on the ground, thus eliminating guesswork and amateurism. Washington DC, on the other hand, will be establishing affinities with grantors and foundations all over the United States. Other regions are also designing their own unique and creative ways of synchronizing their own initiatives.
Beyond lip service, there is also a growing awareness and acceptance of our evangelistic work with migrant communities here and a budding fire and such great promise under Matrimonios para Cristo and the missions to Africa and the Caribbean.
Finally, and perhaps the most defining moment of this year is the completion of our charism from mere Christian to a truly Catholic character, embodied in our consecration and open devotion to Mama Mary.
These blessings upon blessings for the past year have resulted because we have obeyed the Lord when he told us to repent and mend our ways. We refrained from human disputations and strife, and instead moved forward to restore ourselves in him. We have come to Jesus, we who labor and are burdened, and he has given us rest. He has taken the yoke from us as we allowed him to teach us, he who is meek and humble of heart.
That is why today, and everyday, we must remain pliable, malleable and teachable before him, so Jesus can melt us, mold, us, fill and use us for his greater honor and glory.
Let me walk you through some insights of your National Council on how as one people we can move faster but prudently:
Benedict XVI, in his book Jesus of Nazareth, cautions us all against a modern thinking that says the real task of religions is to work together for the coming of a "Kingdom" governed by peace, justice and the preservation of creation.
The Pope said, "this sounds good… it looks as if now, at long last, Jesus' words have gained some practical content because the establishment of the 'Kingdom' has become a common task and is drawing nigh."
On closer examination however, he says, it is suspicious. The main thing that leaps out is that God has disappeared, man is the only actor left on the stage. Faith and religions are now directed towards political goals. Only the organizations of the world counts, and religion matters only insofar as it can serve that objective.
Pope Benedict says "that this post-Christian vision of faith and religion is disturbingly close to the third temptation of Jesus."
Today, you can login to the internet and participate in worship through Oprah Winfrey's webcast. There you will hear Oprah's high priest Echart Tolle say that it is only when we lose control of our faculties and surrender to the resulting peace engendered by meditation that we can only find Jesus from our innermost center. Well brothers and sisters, there is no Jesus in the church of Oprah, only New Age.
Today, you can hear liberation theologians reinventing themselves as evangelists preaching glad tidings to the poor, but putting the gravitas to "poor" rather to "glad tidings" and changing the biblical lexicon of poverty from meaning the absence of, or need for God to condition of those in dire material want. They preach heroism instead of holiness. Brothers and sisters, neither is Jesus there as there can be no charity without Christ.
Today, we see the adulation by the preppies and the yuppies of a presidential candidate who is the most liberal of all senators, left even of Ted Kennedy, whose voting record for abortion-in-demand has been consistent since he was in his state legislature. This man has pledged to Planned Parenthood that he will sign all pro-choice legislation if he becomes the chief executive of this country while at the same time claiming he is a Christian who believes in Jesus. Brothers and sisters, there can be no Jesus in the selective murder of the unborn and the elderly.
The Holy Father admonishes us to return to the real Jesus adopting the intensity of Mother Theresa when she said Jesus, only Jesus, always Jesus!
Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem in those days (when) a decree went out from Caesar Augustus". Jesus, who was taken to Nazareth by Mary and Joseph, to prepare for his prophesied mission. Jesus, who took on his public ministry "on the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being the Governor of Judea, and Herod being Tetrach of Galilee… in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas."
Yes, the real one true Jesus who was a fact of history - the historical Christ, the risen Lord and the coming Judge, who was, is and forever!
One way to Jesus of Nazareth is to see how he started his public life, and this brings us to the Jordan river.
The Symbolism of Baptism
We know who Jesus is and what it means to be a Christian. In fact, we have allowed a renewal of our baptism of water when we were yet children, finishing our Christian Life Seminar with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
But do we really know what we are doing?
Benedict encourages us to look back and imagine the extraordinary impression that the figure and message of John the Baptist must have produced in the highly-charged atmosphere of Jerusalem at that particular moment of history as he shouted "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand."
Mark the Evangelist was certainly not exaggerating when he reported that "there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins."
"Judaism of the day", wrote Benedict, "was familiar with … an enumeration of individual sinful deeds … the goal is truly to leave behind the sinful life one has led until (then) and to start out on the path to a new, changed life."
Do you know how the actual ritual of baptism symbolizes this? The Pope explains that "on the one hand immersion into the waters is a symbol of death… (recalling) the annihilating, destructive power of the ocean flood (in the time of Noah). (But) the flowing waters of the river Jordan (the Nile, the Euphrates and the Tigris) are above all a symbol of life."
"Immersion", Benedict explains, "is about purification, about liberation from the filth of the past that burdens and distorts life (as) it is about beginning again, and that means it is about death and resurrection…"
Jesus was spotless. But the real novelty is the fact that he too wanted to be baptized, so he blends into the gray mass of sinners waiting on the banks of the river Jordan.
The Holy Father said it is not easy to decode the sense of Jesus' enigmatic answer when confronted by John in Matthew 3:14-15, "I need to be baptized by you and yet you are coming to me?" Jesus said to John in reply "Allow it now for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."
There is no provision for John's baptism in the Torah, but Jesus' response is his way of acknowledging it as an expression of an unrestricted Yes to God's will, as an obedient acceptance of his yoke. Thus despite his being without sin, his descending into the waters expresses solidarity with men and women who have incurred guilt but yearn for righteousness.
We cannot fully fathom the significance of this event unless seen in the light of the Cross and the Resurrection - Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind's guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down to the depths of the Jordan, and he inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners; an anticipation of the Cross.
Thus when John the Baptist sees him next in line, he balked at first but had to be obedient to who the Holy Spirit has earlier revealed to him as the promised messiah. I therefore paraphrase John's sending blessing to Jesus beginning his public ministry - Behold, the Servant of God, who has verified himself as the true Passover lamb; the Savior dying on the Cross, patiently going to his vicarious death, by the expiatory power of his innocence, he blotted out the guilt of all mankind.
Brothers and sisters, to accept the invitation to be baptized now means to go to the place of Jesus' baptism. It is to go where he identifies himself with us and to receive there our identification with him. The point where he anticipates death, has now become the point where we anticipate rising again with him.
This is why Benedict XVI says that "there is an arc joining this beginning of Jesus' mission and the words with which he sends his disciples (and that means including us brothers and sisters) into the world after his Resurrection: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.' "
The Purification of God's Chosen
Talking about water, centuries before this scene in river Jordan, we find Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, crossing another great waters, the colossal Red Sea.
Nine-year old Joey, was asked by his mother what he had learned in Sunday parish catechetical school.
"Well mom, Joey said, our teacher told us how God sent Moses behind enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea, he had his army build a pontoon bridge and all the people walked across safely.
"Then when just about every Hebrew had reached the other side, he radioed for reinforcements. Headquarters sent air force bombers to blow up the bridge sending all pursuing Egyptians to death by drowning."
"Now Joey, is that really what your teacher taught you?" his mother asked again, and he replied "Well, no mom, but if I told you the way the teacher did, you'll never believe it!"
In real-life CFC, we often come face to face with works and wonders we too cannot believe.
But now what we want to really deal with here is not what happened at the Red Sea, but what was the Lord doing in the 40 years that the Lord had sent the Israelites wandering in the dessert? The short story is that God was purifying his people, but why?
St. Paul says 1 Corinthians 10 "I do not want you to be unaware, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses…all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink…yet God was not pleased with most of them. So let us not test Christ as some of them did and suffered death by serpents. Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us upon whom the end of the ages has come."
Paul was referencing to the early Jews in their plight from Egypt, where the people of the one true God intermarried with idolatrous pagans and the lack of their agreement as to the ultimate authority in their life was causing problems for everyone. We find this in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 11, verse 4 where we are told that the rabble who were among them had a strong craving.
Rabbles were non-Jews who were with the Israelites but who professed another faith. It is from this root word that the gerund rabble-rousing came from. And craving is desire. Although James Chapter 1 says desire can give birth to sin, desire itself is not sin. It is when you dwell on desire, that yielding becomes just a matter of time.
Remember that all the while God has already provided for them everything that they needed to eat. God was literally raining down bread from heaven or manna; not everything they wanted but everything they needed. But the Israelites as provoked by the rabbles wept again and again and said…"oh if only have we got meat to eat".
Watch how covetousness inflates and distorts reality. Numbers 11 Verse 5 " We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic." Yes, it cost nothing because they stole it, they were slaves and next to nothing in Egypt and they were eating from the leftovers of their masters.
Verse 6 says they said their strength is dried up and there's nothing at all but this manna to look at. That is a pretty serious accusation. What they are saying is that what God have given them is not enough.
So God sent a wind that drove quail from the sea and brought them down over their campsite. Everyone did not only have their fill of bird meat but a lot more. But you see there was no refrigeration during that time, so the more they ate, the more they got sick causing a great plague. That place was named Kibroth-hattaavah, because it was there that the greedy people were buried.
The Scripture is being explained here because it is important to us to understand that of the entire Jewish nation that left Egypt, only the people of Joshua and Caleb, were allowed by God to cross the river. The Lord made sure only the worthy generations made it to the Promised Land.
So watch out for every communicating action or attitude that what has given you is not enough. Beware for begging God for non-essentials. Again, Luke 12 says a person's life does not consist on the abundance of things that he possesses, and yet how often has God provided for our needs and here we are begging for more.
This is why sometimes God says, okay you can have it all, but not me. Psalm 105 says he gave them their request but he sent leanness into their souls. God says you think that's better than me? Go ahead and have that, we'll see how happy that makes you. We'll see how satisfied you become."
Did you get the picture? Covetousness destroys your capacity to discern when you have enough. That is why most of us here have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar - we tend to take more than what we need. Then after we do that, we end up spending more in the gym in order to shred off excess fat or spending for drugs because we have become sick. The end result is atrophy and dystrophy in the vineyard of the Lord and that is why even as wealthy as you are, God cannot use you.
By the time they reached the banks of the river Jordan, the profile of the generations was somewhat the same as what we have presently in the United States. Just as they were transitioning to claim the promised land across, today we are also transitioning to claim the springtime of Christianity that God revealed to John Paul the Great.
Bridging the Generations
But look at the people we are crossing over. This short profiling might explain to you why you are not able to move them.
Those who were born before 1946 are the traditionalists. Education to them was a dream and almost all resources of the family were invested on their children's education than anything else. Consequently, other conveniences were hard to come by - transactions were basically on cash basis and lay-a-ways regulated impulse buying.
Traditionalists had a fancy for rules and discipline. Families were viewed as a nuclear unit and raised to conform and respect authority. Relations were close as basic communications were generally eyeball to-eyeball, and rotary phones were considered a prized innovation.
After the second world war, returning veterans raised big families creating a population surge to what we now know as the baby boomers generation born 1946 to 1964, the batch of non-conformists if not outright rebellious.
Advanced war technology and vibrant agriculture boosted the production capability of the United States resulting in the boomers acquiring great economic power and wealth. As a result, work is regarded as an exciting adventure resulting in workaholicism and love for meetings, titles and recognitions.
By sheer numbers, boomers also raised tax collection that education graduated to become a birthright. Touch-tone phones and remote extensions were fashionable. Consumer goods prospered creating the credit card generation. When the boomers were babies, the product of value were diapers; when they became toddlers, toys; when they grew to teenagers, cars; and now that they have started entering their senior years, back to health care and diapers.
Sadly, the boomers' work ethics, wealth and the proliferation of consumer products and elaborate entertainment media to balm their tired minds and bodies brought about the disintegration of families. So as not to get in the way of prosperity, the two child policy was commonly adopted and this paved the way for many forms of contraception and when that failed, abortion-on-demand.
As a result, the children of the baby boomers, the Generation X, born 1965 to 1980 are not relatively as many as their parents. Born to mostly divorced parents, they are basically skeptics who love fun and informality. Often fending for themselves they became entrepreneural who relishes education as a way to get to their destination. Gen-X are predominantly cautious, and are conservative savers as generally resulting from their fear of losing the wealthy lifestyles that they were born into. The cell phone was born during their time.
Generation Y's came from 1981 to 2000 to mixed families. They are realistic, confident and social but comes at a time when higher education has become an incredible expense. This generation has great muti-tasking ability developed by their exposure to cell phones capable of SMS or texting, MMS, internet and emails. Gen Y's are also coming in just about the same population ratio as the baby boomers. By the way, most of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are Gen-Y's so you can just imagine how troubled this generation would be when they come home with all kinds of stories from the warfront.
There you are traditionalists, boomers, gen-X and gen-Y, all of whom we have to lead into the waters to die to their old selves and cross over to a new life in Jesus Christ.
This weekend we talked a lot about restoration. The work ahead for us is the same but the walls are a little different. The Lord has called us to the United States to be the leaven that will rebuild the walls of American family system and its human institutions.
In 1965, the ratio of children living in homes of single or unmarried parents was 8%. Last year, it was 34% across the board, the highest among races was 70% among the blacks.
This is why it is important for us to understand that Couples for Christ in America is not an ethnic privilege reserved to those of Filipino descent. The Lord has precisely sent us to diaspora so that we can imbibe our family-oriented values to all peoples wherever we are, of whatever color or creed.
We have covenanted with Jesus to see this through.
A Covenant of Holy Witness
For instance, our first covenant so requires that we become followers and disciples of Christ. That means living a life of holiness. Holiness means setting our lives apart from the world, the flesh and devil - everything that is not of God. A holy people are a people who live not according to the demands of creation but the purpose of their Creator, ever decreasing in the face of a forever increasing Christ to himself, his family, his community and others.
We see the example of an impeccable man on his knees in prayer in the tenth chapter of the book of Daniel.
You see it was not just in Egypt that the chosen people experienced exile. The people of God divided into two nations after Solomon, the north became Israel and the south remained to be called to Judah. This division proved fatal as the Assyrians overran both territories after Zephaniah's time, resulting in the destruction of the temple and the city Solomon had built. The Chaldeans led by Nebuchadnezzar came after and brought the Jews onto Babylon until they defeated over time by the Medes, the Persians and finally the Greeks.
Can you relate to the Jews in exile? Can you relate to their desire to live once again in their motherland, and perhaps more empowering their desire to repair the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple of the Living God?
Daniel was one of the gifted Jews taken by Chaldeans to serve in the palace. Daniel stood firm for God since the age of 14, when he was taken captive from Jerusalem to Babylon. He stood firm for his God from that age, not just during the exuberant enthusiasm of his youth but for the rest of his life and he did not cave in to pressure and to compromise in a life of privilege and stature in the king's palace.
Scriptures says no one can accuse him of wrongdoing as he was trustworthy: "no fault of neglect or misconduct was to be found in him". And even if all the supervisors of the kingdom, the prefects, the satraps, nobles and governors all agreed to entrap him with legalisms to the point that they made King Darius signed a decree making anyone who petitions any god or man other than the king for a period of thirty days, Daniel continued his custom of going home to kneel in prayer and give thanks to his God in the upper chamber three times a day with the windows open toward Jerusalem. As he prayed, a spiritual battle was raging all around him.
So he was thrown into the lions' den. But you all know the rest of the story. The lions turned into pussycats. Yet time and again he would be put to a test of his determination to serve his one true God and of his wisdom to interpret the many dreams and predicaments of the five kings that he served, namely Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus, Cambyses and Darius.
So now he is an old man and he knows that he could no longer leave exile to make the journey back to Jerusalem. So it's beginning to dawn on him that his personal desires, that his personal wishes, that his personal dreams are never becoming reality.
Brothers and sisters, I want to tell you something that is urgent for you and I to understand. When our prayers are for our own wants, when all of our prayers are focused on our circumstances, when all of our prayers are "Give me, give me, give me, God," then we haven't yet learned what it means to pray.
But prayer that seeks the glory of God, the prayer that seeks the Kingdom of God, the prayer that seeks the blessing of God upon others, the prayer that is offered on behalf of others and on behalf of the work of God - the prayers that are offered on behalf of the preaching of the Gospel around the world, those prayers not only honor God, but these are the prayers that God honors.
Some of you are thinking, "Maestro, are you saying that we should not pray for our needs?" That is not what I'm saying at all. What I am saying is: If your prayer is totally focused on yourself and nothing else, if your prayer is only for the fulfillment of your wishes and your desires and your dreams and nothing else, then there is something wrong with your prayer life.
James says this type of self-absorbed prayer will not be answered. "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you might spend what you get on your pleasures." (Jas 4:3).
But there is also a biblical principle here that runs from Genesis to Revelation: It is when we give that we receive. It is by dying to self that we receive life. It is by sacrificing that we are truly blessed. It is when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, that all of our needs are going to be met with God and His majesty and His glory. And it works the same way in prayer.
Daniel's prayer was a model prayer because it was a selfless prayer. His prayer was for his people to return to Jerusalem to fix its walls and rebuilt the temple. As such, God answered his prayer in a way that he never expected, yes on the first day that he asked. The first verse of the first chapter of the Book of Ezra tells of Cyrus, king of Persia and conqueror of Babylon, decreeing the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem, allowing any Jews who wish to return home to participate, and authorizing all silver and gold, goods and cattle and free-will offerings. The families of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites led by Ezra and Nehemiah have already gone to Jerusalem.
But he never ceased praying. It has been three years and Nehemiah had returned and Daniel was still on his knees. The task could not be completed with only a small contingent of Jews, and the report was therefore depressing - the walls have been breached in many places, because of this brigands would come in at night and rob the Jews and violate their homes; many of their youth would intermarry with the pagans who lined outside the holes in the wall thus diluting their culture threatening a repeat of the rabbles; the temple is in shambles; the workers are few and they are discouraged; the opposition is so fierce that the handful of people who went back is now ready to give up. Everyone in Jerusalem or left in Babylon were losing hope.
Now brothers and sisters, I want you to mark this: We, at this moment of history - in America - live in a very similar time. We are in danger of a false sense of security because we are in danger of stopping to pray. We are in danger of stopping to intercede for the kingdom of God and for the work of God to manifest in our midst. Worse, the moral walls of this country are broken. And that is why like this aged man of God, Daniel, in chapter 12, we should go on our face before God in prayer and supplication.
Because of Daniel's selfless prayer and holy life, God sent the angel Gabriel to him who repeated the very message with which we started this whole discourse: "…transgression will stop and sin will end, guilt will be expiated. Everlasting justice will be introduced, vision and prophecy ratified, and a most holy one will be anointed." (Dn 9:24)
It is almost unanimous among the fathers of the Church to this day, that the angel was referring to the fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus Christ.
God gave Daniel a vision of all visions, and we see what happens when the righteous pray. He answered it more abundantly than Daniel even dreamed of receiving. The Lord continued answering the prayers of Daniel even after his death, as Nehemiah would eventually succeed in leading the chosen people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, reconstruct the temple of the living God, thus completing the work of restoration for that era.
Let us summarize what we have taken up so far.
The first learning is that we are a people whose faith is under attack by secularist forces and because they are powerful, our work of restoring all things in Jesus is at great risk.
The second learning is that our Pope has shown us how the lines are drawn, what is expected of us and who is our personal God and savior. He has also clearly illustrated where, why and how our own anointing and empowerment comes by way of our own baptism. There we caught up with the understanding that this battle is not ours but God's but through baptism, we have enlisted ourselves on the side of his son Jesus.
The third learning is the configuration of our army in the four generations that are with us as we move towards claiming the springtime of Christianity and inhaling the second wind of our rapid and massive effort as families in the holy spirit to renew the face of the earth, just as the chosen people crossed over Jordan to claim their promised land.
The fourth learning is how the work of restoration deriving its power from prayer and holiness can serve as our modern-day model in spiritual warfare, as exemplified in Daniel, with only the works of Ezra and Nehemiah taking a subsequent role.
Take Home Exhortation
But lo and behold, I will not let you go back to your foxholes with just that and without practical wisdom from all high:
First, the power of prayer is in the persistence of prayer. Do you know how to fight and win, or are you defeated day-after-day-after-day? That's really the question. Daniel was praying for the Persian king to come to the aid of his people, and to come against the opposition of the Samaritans who were trying to get him to rescind the decree favoring the return of the Jews.
At the very same time as Daniel was crying out to God, what he couldn't see - but later on was able to see - was that Satan was working overtime to frustrate God's people. Yet even though the Persian kings were under Satan's control, the great God of heaven, in response to Daniel's prayer, changed their minds and got them to become obedient to the living God.
No wonder the Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought, to make it obedient to Christ."
Secondly, the power of prayer is dependent on the righteousness of the person praying. Daniel understood the awesomeness of that prayer that he was praying because he wasn't praying, "God, help my lower back," and "get my knees fixed," or God, make my toe straight." That's not what he was praying. He was praying a huge prayer. He was praying for God to change history.
You've got to wrap your warms around this one. Brethren, the power of prayer is incalculable, especially when you pray big prayers, when you ask God for the impossible, when you ask God for His glory, when you ask God to manifest His power.
But don't drop your guard. Don't think the devil does not know what power the army of God would have if they unite in prayer. Do you ever wonder why thousands come to Mass on Sunday, but you are lucky to get hundreds in a prayer meeting on a weekday. Satan's not stupid, he was not Lucifer the angel of light for nothing. He knows where our power is, so he will arrange all kinds of things to stop us from coming to the Lord in prayer. Satan gets it all the time, he understands it - most of the time, we don't.
But listen to me: Satan and his demons might be working behind the veil in order to hinder answers to the prayer of the righteous, but they will ultimately fail. Satan may create a flurry of opposition, so while you're praying, all you see is opposition, all you see are obstacles, all you see are impossibilities but you will prevail. Satan and his demons may even fiercely use deceit and disinformation, escalate the lies and use people who are near and dear to us, in order to make our lives miserable… but they will be foiled…
This is why there's something most important about prayer that we ought not to miss. The power of prayer in the Bible is not that there is power in the prayer that was offered to God. No!
The power of prayer doesn't even mean that the person who's doing the praying has power. When we talk about the power of prayer, it is the power of God working in response to a whole-hearted commitment in prayer. That's what the power of prayer is.
Let me repeat that: The power of prayer is the power of God working in response to a total dependence on God in prayer.
Not all prayers are effectual prayers. In James 5:16, here's what he said, "The prayer of the righteous man is powerful and effective."
Prayer is not some secret trick that you get in order to manipulate God to get Him to do what you want Him to do for you. That's paganism. The only powerful prayer, the only lasting prayer, the only effectual prayer is the prayer that is the extension of a righteous life. It's an expression of a consistent life, not a double life. It's the expression of a godly life.
Again, only those who have no disconnect between the way they pray and the way they live will be effective in prayer… and that is why it is absolutely necessary that we fully understand what our baptism is all about - a people moving forward in holiness.
Holiness is not just being without sin. Holiness is not just being good and saying and doing the right things. Holiness is not just living a life separate from the world, the flesh and the devil.
Holiness in its highest form is walking with our Savior and our Lord, and giving witness to our character as Christ's people in our daily lives. Holiness is being able and available to win souls for God. Holiness is helping build the Kingdom of God.
The key to holiness, as we now know, is a vibrant prayer life of a righteous person.
Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life ought to be a prayerful people. That is why never before have we been put on the same page at any given time of day or night, whether we are in Seattle or Rhode Island, San Francisco or New York, Miami, Houston or Kalamazoo. In our website www.cfcusa.net, we have the Household Leader newsletter provides us with daily reflections that can accompany our prayer time and, devotionals and other prayerful resources in print, audio and video.
All you have to do is to log-in to check the cadence of our mission. The future of our evangelization, charism, families, ministries and life depends on prayer where we remain plugged and connected to the source of all life and grace, from whom we derive the power to renew the face of the earth.
Prayer is the most essential part of our Christian lives - and especially the prayer of the Eucharist. It is not based on anything we have done, It is based on what Jesus had done. Because of his sacrifice, we can receive his body and blood and enter into a true communion with him and the Father. When we taken on the gentle yoke of Jesus, he leads us to his Father and we find rest.
How is your prayer life today? What is the state of your holiness today? Ask the Lord on how you can improve it. What is dragging you down? It is a mindset, perfectionism, fear or insecurity? Is it an attachment to material goods or an addiction that's consuming you?
Whatever it is, bring it to the corss - and experience the freedom and power and joy of having Christ as your master!
Let us bow our heads in prayer.
Almighty Father, pass on the joy of your Son so that all of the world can see how victorious our God can be!
Jesus, you have called us all by name. We have left the Egypt and Babylon of our earthly pursuits but are having great difficulty in crossing over to the life that you have intended for us. Convict us always into your ways, make us a teachable people and show us how to be holy before your Father.
We invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of wisdom and openness of heart to the teachings of Holy Scriptures. Attract us to the Holy Sacraments, most especially the Eucharist, and to a devotion to Mama Mary, that we may lead lives of good witness in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.
Lord, we thank you that you have given us the next generations, our young ministries, to whom we wish to rest the legacy of evangelization and the promotion of family and life, continuing the conversion of great numbers and entire nations of all colors and creed.
In the mighty name of Jesus, we invoke the protection of St. Michael over our children and grand children, from the allures of the world and the flesh. Deliver them, Lord, from environments of permissiveness and promiscuity that weighs heavily on indiscipline, covetousness and New Age. Preserve them that they may be our better reinforcements.
And finally Lord, empower us with selfless generosity to our community that it will flourish and grow, bear fruits for your greater honor and glory.
In Jesus, only Jesus, always Jesus. Amen.