Sunday, July 6, 2014

How to escape from your Chains... Addiction, attachments, and sin

Today we celebrate the great Feast of Saint Peter and Paul. Two of the foundations of our church. Peter, literally, the rock of our church; and Paul, the one that helped spread and evangelized our faith to every continent. So two thousand years later we have a strong, holy Catholic and apostolic church because of these wonderful saints, Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Part of their struggle, they both, for a time in their life, ended up in chains because of their faith. So we heard in the first reading today that Peter was bound and chained. So his hands were tied double chained together. And Paul at one point in his, life too, was imprisoned and bound with chains.

This whole idea of in the some of the founders of our church being bound in chains really kind of grabbed my attention because -- Peter especially, was double bound by his chains. And as we heard in the first reading, "While he was sleeping, an angel came to him, tapped him on the shoulder, he stood up, and his chains were released." He was freed from chains.

And so I've been thinking about this. What it means to be bound by chains and how to be freed from them. And so something came to mind. Actually, we have a master magician who is in the parish. And I've always wanted to do the straight jacket routine. You know, where they hang you from a crane, like, 20 feet up and you have to escape from the straight jacket. I couldn't figure out how to do that one in church, so better yet, he gave me his chains. And so these are actually -- he told me these are real chains, real padlocks that he got from Home Depot. And I'm going to tie myself up in chains and try to release myself. And the whole time I want you to focus on whatever the chains are in your life.

So I could use a couple of volunteers to help me out with this. And could I have the black bag from the servers. I was practicing this in the office. I had a wedding on Friday and I was practicing. I actually couldn't get myself out of the chains. I had to have the secretary let me out. I need two volunteers that can open up a padlock and close it. And anybody from your family want to do it? Don't be shy. You want to, can somebody help me out, the two of you? Or do you two want to do it? I think you to can do it. Why don't you come up here. You can help me out. Let's have the 50th anniversary couple do this. Here, why don't you walk up right here. You can come up here, too, but I want you to come over here. I'll just be in the middle of you two for a while. I won't keep you apart for long. Good.

Okay. Now, last time they thought I hid a key in the black bag. I'm going to make sure to show you that it was empty. I would not do that. Here's the key. Here's one padlock. Make sure it's real and you can't open it. And then here is the key to open up the padlock. I'm just trying to show you that I'm not, like -- this is the real thing here.

Okay, that's one padlock. Click, open. Good. Here's the other one. Hold on to this, too. Thank you. I'm going to show you guys all of this because they thought I hid a key in the bag. So this is empty. Okay, put this here for now. Thank you. All right, hang on. Okay, so here is the chains. These are real chains, right? Feel them.

Yeah, those are real.

Real chains. It's all metal. So what I'm going to do is you're going to padlock me first here. So I will hold the key. You can hold the key, here. Thank you. Now, I am never going to touch that key again, okay. I don't want people accusing me of using the key. There's one end.

Snap it?

Yeah, go ahead and snap it, lock it shut. You got it? Good. Tug on that. Is it really shut?


Okay, good. You did a good job. Can you hand him the other one?

Here's the other one. 

You guys have been chained together for 50 years, so you should be familiar with this.

Okay. Go ahead and snap that one together. All right, good. Tug on it. Is it locked? Keep that key away from me.

All right. Okay. Now, what I want you to do, can you stand here for a minute? Are you okay? Because I'm going to talk for a little bit with the chains on my hands.

So the idea is, all right, these are real. I can't get them out. You know, I can try and tug all I want. I can't get you to pull me out of them. They're real chains, okay, real chains and real locks. So the deal is, we heard in the first reading that Saint Peter was locked in chains and they were double wrapped around his wrist. So he had double chains on his wrist. He was locked. They were real, okay.

We all have chains in our lives. So I want you to think about the chains that you're bound by. You know, maybe, maybe it's your chains or maybe it's your loved one, maybe it's your spouse or your child or a good friend or somebody that you love, and you just know they are bound by these chains and they haven't been able to get free from them.

Or maybe it's something you've been trying to quit. Maybe it's a bad behavior or something that you've been trying to give up, and no matter how much you try, you haven't been able to do it. That's your chains. So I just want you to think about that.

It could be some kind of addiction. Maybe it's an addiction to some kind of drug or alcohol or maybe even prescription drugs or pot, or maybe it's alcohol. You know, maybe you're just chained to alcohol and you haven't been able to break free.

Maybe it's some kind of sexual sin, like pornography or masterbation, or something that's really bad and you haven't been able to break free from it.

Maybe it's an emotional thing. Maybe you've been struggling for years with depression and you haven't been able to break free from those chains or anxiety or some other kind of mental illness.

Maybe your chains are physical. You know, maybe you have found yourself chained by some kind of physical ailment and you haven't been able to get free from it and you're frustrated.

Maybe your chains are sins, some kind of sin that you struggle with. Maybe it's anger. Maybe it's impatience. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's a bad relationship you've been in and you've been bound to that.

Whatever your chains are, you cannot free yourself from them. And maybe you've tried and you've tried and you've tried and you've given it up for lent and you've given it up for New Year's Eve and you made it your New Year's -- and you can't give it up, you can't break yourself free from these chains. I want you to think about whatever that is right now. Because there is only one person that can free you from the chains. Who is that person? God, right? Only God can free you from the chains.

And we heard about that in the first reading. Peter was bound by chains. Did Peter free himself from the chains? No. The church was praying fervently for Peter. They knew he was arrested, they knew that they were going to kill him. They found him and they were going to kill him like John and his brother. They knew it was coming soon.

So the church began praying fervently for Peter. In the middle of the night, while Peter was sleeping, he didn't even know what was going on, an angel of the Lord came into the dark room, and there were two guards sleeping next to him. So remember there were two guards beside him, there were four sets of four guards outside of him. He was sleeping. In the middle of the night, the angel came to him, tapped him on the shoulder, woke him up. Peter stood up and the chains dropped from his hands and he was free. He didn't even know what was going on. He thought it was a dream. He walked past the two guards, he walked past the other guards outside the door. He got out of there and he was free. And it was only when he looked back that he realized that it was an angel that saved him. And it was actually the prayer of the faithful people that saved him.

And so what I'd like to do now is just show you how simple it is. And so I'm going to show you a magic act. But our faith is not a magic trick. The only trick is you can't do it. You can't get yourself out of these chains no matter how hard you try or pull or push or tug or bite on them or beg, you know, to get out of them. The only one that can get you out is God. And when God does it, it's so simple. It's so quick. It's so miraculously easy that you can't even believe how it happened.

So to symbolize that mystery of God in our faith, we have the black bag. So can you hold the black bag out now? You're probably better at this anyway. Here. It's inside out. Put it -- could you -- yeah, whatever. I just have to show you guys there's no key. Everybody accuses me of hiding the key in the black bag. Okay, get rid of that key. So she's got the key.

Now, what I'd like you to do is hold, if you can hold one end and your husband hold the other end like that, and just kind of -- I'm going to put my hands in here.

Now, just to show you how simple and easy this is, if I can do it right. All right. Now, Houdini didn't have to wear a chasuble when he did this. I have to wear all of these priest clothing that makes it harder, okay. What you're going to do is count down from ten and see if I can get out of the chains in ten seconds or less, okay?

Ready. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

How about that? Where are the keys? I never touched them, right?


So the idea is, we all have our chains, and right now God can free you from them. Through the prayers of the church, we gather here to pray together as a church. When we come as a church and pray fervently, our prayers are powerful, and they can be answered. And I guarantee you that a year from now someone from this mass today is going to walk up to me and say, Father, ever since that mass I gave up this, or I quit that and never did it again. It was a miracle. It was a grace ever since then because of the prayers, of the faith. Or someone is going to come up to me and say, Father, my son was struggling with addiction for so long, and ever since that mass, when I prayed for him, it never happened again.

It's because of the prayer of the church that Christ works these miracles in our lives. And through that prayer, he can free us from our sins.

So what I want you to do now is just take a moment and call to mind whatever sin that is, whatever chain you are bound by, and I want you to offer that mass and ask God to free it. Or if it's not you, if it's someone that you love and you know they are so bound by some chain of fear or anger or lust, or whatever it is, addiction, pray for them, offer this mass for them and ask God to free them. And we find that when we do pray fervently as a church, God hears our prayer, and in an instant, miraculously, we are freed from our chains.




Peter thus was being kept in prison,

but prayer by the Church was fervently being made

to God on his behalf.

It is the prayer of the Church that will free us from our prison.

You cannot free yourself. No one else can free you.

Only Christ working through the prayers of the Church can free you.

What are your chains?

Or if not your chains, who is that person you know is in chains? Bring them as your intention when we pray together at mass.

The Chains

Is it an addiction to drugs? Is it being caught in lust, pornography or masturbation? Is it substance abuse or alcoholism? Is it being tied into an unhealthy or unholy relationship? Is it allowing yourself to remain with an abusive partner? Is it your anger? Is it depression? Anxiety? Mental Illness? Your unforgiveness? or even a disability or any other illness or sin.

What are the chains that you have not been able to free yourself from?

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial,

Peter, secured by double chains,

was sleeping between two soldiers,

while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison.

Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him

and a light shone in the cell.

He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying,

“Get up quickly.”

The chains fell from his wrists.

The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.”

He did so.

Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.”

So he followed him out,

not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real;

he thought he was seeing a vision.

They passed the first guard, then the second,

and came to the iron gate leading out to the city,

which opened for them by itself.

They emerged and made their way down an alley,

and suddenly the angel left him.

Then Peter recovered his senses and said,

“Now I know for certain

that the Lord sent his angel

and rescued me from the hand of Herod

and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”

"The chains fell from his wrists"

It truly is amazing that when God frees us from our chains, it is effortless. It is beyond what we can fathom, imagine, or expect.

Part of what keeps us in our chains is trying to figure out how to get out of the or how God is going to get us out of them.

Sometimes like the chain release act we just have to place ourselves into the darkness. It is often when we place ourselves into the darkest faith, the hope where there doesn't seem to be hope, that God works his mysteries.

God's word and the prayer of the Church is effective. Some of you just by reading these words may be freed at this very moment by the grace of God.

Like St. Peter you may not even realize what is happening or has happened and before you know it you to can say like St. Peter: "Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me."

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