The Rosary is God’s Newsfeed

Did you read about what President Trump said?  Did you see that meme about Nancy Pelosi?  Did you know that the Russians are secretly colluding with the tobacco industry to put nicotine into flu vaccines because a Saudi billionaire is shorting the British pound which is closely tied to Big Pharma?  Junk!  All of it.  It’s not informative or educational.  It doesn’t really raise any awareness of anything substantial.  We consume this junk every day and for what?  Has social media and newsfeeds made us happier and more at peace?  Are our lives better because of it?

Perhaps it is time to break out of the cycle of negative, vindictive, and manipulative newsfeeds and social media posts.  I recommend subscribing to God’s social media feed and making that the first thing you read every morning.  You won’t see any fake news, advertisements, memes, or cat videos.  You’re not going to find Him on Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter.  You don’t even need a computer or smartphone.  God’s newsfeeds are scripture, rosary prayer, reflection, and meditation.

Facebook has become a medium for people to vent their frustrations, share their joys, and ask questions.  God’s feed through prayer offers similar functionality but with more benefits.  In prayer, you can vent your frustrations, share your joys, and receive feedback and assistance.  Why vent all your frustrations to people who will just ignore you, argue with you, or give you generic responses when you can receive honest, sincere feedback from God?  There is nothing you can tell Him that will cause Him to block, ban, or unfriend you.  God is your ideal friend who will always listen as if you’re the only friend on His feed.

Not only is God’s feed informational, He also offers a lot of services.  Okay, so Heaven doesn’t stream videos or offer two-day shipping.  But God does offer us much greater gifts through the Sacraments.  You can be instantly forgiven of sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  You can receive Jesus’s Body and Blood through the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  You receive healing and graces through the Anointing of the Sick.  These are exclusive to God and His Church.  Amazon, Facebook, and Google will never be able to provide these services.

I have this suggestion for subscribing to God’s newsfeed.  Every day, after you wake up, make talking to God the first thing you do.  Make prayer, reading the daily scripture, a Rosary decade, or some moments of reflection the requirement for opening your email, Facebook, WhatsApp, or Twitter account.  Focusing on God first thing in the morning is much better and positive than reading some reposted meme about why some public figure is the worst person since Hitler.

I think the Fourth Glorious Rosary Mystery, Mary’s Assumption, best exemplifies a Heavenly newsfeed.  Mary has a special role in Heaven as our intercessor and guide.  She calls us to love Her Son and follow His teachings.  She has appeared to many people throughout history preaching the importance of prayer, fasting, and the sacraments.  She has provided many “posts” throughout the last 2,000 years and has given us great tools for living in God’s grace.  Namely, She gave us the Rosary prayer which is our best conduit for learning what God desires for us.  The Rosary is God’s newsfeed.  Are you subscribed and following Him?

Make Rosary Prayer a High Priority

Many of us, including myself, often think we are too busy to pray. We may understand the value of prayer and enjoy praying and yet we too often find ourselves bogged down in day-to-day responsibilities (and let’s be honest, leisure) that we don’t pray as much as we want or should. I know that my goal of a rosary chaplet and scripture reading every day often goes only partially filled.

Cardinal Beniamino Stella, when addressing seminarians, had this to say about prayer:

One hour each day is necessary, a time for the Lord, to allow oneself to be encountered by Him and to grow in His friendship . . . The time that we dedicate to the Lord in prayer, in meditation, and in a personal encounter, is never lost time.” “On the contrary, the more generous we are with those times offered to God, the more we will be able to go to brothers with a pastor’s heart and as precious instruments of the Father’s tenderness.

And yet, I think many of us do see prayer as lost time. It may not be consciously, but what we put ahead of prayer does reveal the priority we put on it. For example, what was I doing right before writing this article? I was watching clips from The Simpsons on Youtube. And while downtime after a busy day is important, was rewatching a Tree House of Horror episode really more important than Rosary prayer or Bible reading?  If actions speak louder than words, then my actions are saying that I don’t always put a high value on prayer.

Also, note that Cardinal Beniamino Stella is talking specifically about meditative prayer.  Not all of us have time to sit quietly for an hour and meditate. However, there are other ways to integrate prayer into your day.  For example, look at St. Therese’s Little Way as a means of incorporating God and reflecting on your relationship with Him in everything you do:

Catholics would do well to imitate St. Therese’s Little Way if they want to be happy in this life, as well as happy in the next.  That “Little Way” consists of simplicity in life, prayer from the heart to Jesus, total trust in God as our Loving Father (not a stern judge), being a true child of God our Father rather than doing our own thing, seeking God’s will in our everyday activities, doing everything for the love of Jesus with humility, being kind to people we can’t stand, and a sincere desire to be with Jesus forever rather than to be in this world.

Let’s look at the Rosary and what it says about prayer.  Prayer was obviously important to Jesus.  In the First Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus turned to God at His darkest hour to find strength.  What did the disciples do after witnessing Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven?  They went to the temple and praised God (Luke 24:53).  Look at Saint Simeon and Anna in the Fourth Joyful Mystery who spent their time in the temple praying and praising God.  Prayer surrounds Jesus in these Rosary mysteries and hence we need to surround ourselves in prayer if we are to have a deep and meaningful relationship with God.

How The Rosary Protects Us From Satan

In an interview, Pope Francis reasserted the Catholic teaching that Satan is not some abstract concept of evil but is an actual being who is cunning and clever.  The Pope said:

“Satan is smart, he tells us that when we kick him out he will go, but then after a while, when you are distracted after a few years, he comes back, with seven companions worse than him.  He is very polite, knocks at the door, rings the bell, comes in politely, and in the end he comes in with his friends.  It’s important to be smart, to spot, and to have the ability to discern Satan’s lies.”

The heart of this RosaryMeds article is not what Pope Francis said in the interview, but the nature of the comments linked to the article.  You may want to pop some Xanax before reading them because they are pretty much an organized religion hatefest.  Ironically, all these comments about how silly Christians are for believing in evil confirms the Pope’s point — Satan is a master when it comes to deception.  The people who think they are above what they consider silly superstition play right into Satan’s master plan.

I think every ISP should also come with a prescription plan to help deal with the craziness

What I find interesting in the comments is this misconception that Pope Francis wants everyone to live in perpetual fear of Satan and that is why he constantly brings him up in interviews.  This seems part of the whole, the Catholic Church wants to control us so they can get more money and power conspiracy theory.  But there’s a large difference between acknowledging someone’s existence and living in fear of him.  The pope is trying to teach the former, not promote the latter.

I think of acknowledging Satan’s existence and not underestimating his abilities is quite sensible.  It’s like driving a car.  If you drive, you must acknowledge that there are bad/lazy/drunk drivers on the road.  Does this mean that you need to fear driving down the street to run errands?  No, we can’t suspend our lives because there is a possibility of getting hurt.  Inversely, we can’t be lazy while driving and disregard safety rules because we don’t believe we’ll get into a collision.  We have to acknowledge that there are dangers and take appropriate precautions but not let those dangers force us into a state of inaction or complacent.

The Catholic Church wants us to be public witnesses of Jesus’ love in this world.  We don’t do that be shutting ourselves in because we fear Satan.  If all the Catholics in the world withdrew from the world out of fear, then Satan gets what he desires — a world free of any awareness and opposition to his power.

The acknowledgment of evil and the consequences of trying to pretend that evil, temptation, and sin does not exist ties back to the Second Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary.  In Jesus’ Ascension, He returned to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God to judge the living and the dead.  We profess this every time we start praying the Rosary and at Mass.  And yet, there are so many people, both Catholics and non-Catholics, who do not believe in judgment because they don’t believe in sin, temptation, and Satan.  In other words, if you don’t believe you can do anything objectively wrong, why should you believe there will be an assessment of your behavior?

When you pray the Rosary, particularly the Second Glorious Mystery, remember that Mary wants us to acknowledge that there is evil, Satan is real, sin is possible, and judgment is inevitable.  But, one of the reasons why we pray the Rosary is to ask Mary and the saints for the strength to love Jesus by following His teachings despite Satan’s attempts to make us do otherwise.  The Rosary is our spiritual seatbelt that protects us from the evil in the world that is constantly trying to cause us to swerve and crash from the path God desires for us.

 

Imitating Heaven by Creating a Joyful Family Life

Joy is an elusive feeling missing in many of our lives.  Perhaps many of us are not joyful because we do not make finding it a priority.  We tend think joy is something that just happens to some and not to others.  But joy is something that requires our active participation in many small but often challenging ways.  Joy starts within the home.  Father Ed Broom wrote an article about 10 ways to vitalize the Catholic family which I think has a lot to do with finding joy.  The TL;DR summary of a joyful family is:

  1. Family prayer
  2. The father as head of the family
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Saying “I’m sorry”
  5. Servant attitude
  6. Gratitude
  7. Take a break from gadgets
  8. Listen
  9. Celebrate
  10. Marian Consecration

When I look at these ten points as a whole, I get the idea that a vitalized family is a joyous family.  It is one centered around building each other up, acknowledging when we mess up, forgiving, and moving on.

We all know the saying that money does not buy happiness.  But that does not stop many of us from trying.  I’m not just talking about extravagant or needless purchases either.  We all want what’s best for our spouse and our children and often plunk down a lot of money trying to achieve that.  We spend a lot for organized sports and activities, days out having fulfilling experiences, and nice family meals out.  But all that stuff and activities can also drown out true quality time that produces joy.

Modern “family time.” Where’s the joy emoji?

True family happiness is not something that comes through a Disney cruise or Hawaiian vacation.  It comes from much smaller but probably more costly actions.  It means taking the time to listen to your kid stumble through a joke he heard at school.  It means having some silly time with a toddler even when there is housework to be done.  It means just stopping and asking how your kids’ day went.  It means setting aside time to listen to your spouse talk about the day.

Life is busy.  And we so often get bogged down in doing what is immediately necessary.  We need to wake the kids up, we need to finish breakfast, we need to get to school, we need to drive to baseball practice, we need to get started on homework, we need to clean the house, we need to…  And so our days become a checklist of tasks where the joy and happiness are jettisoned for the sake of efficiency.  We may not even feel unhappy because everything runs so smoothly.  But we miss out on that feeling of joy because we are so busy running our families like a business that we don’t take the time enjoying being a family.

Joy is an important aspect of the Catholic faith and yet is one that is too often forgotten.  We forget about the joy amongst the talk of fasting, penance, sin, and dogma.  What we fail to understand is that the rules, fasting, and penance make way for joy because they tear down our natural human resistance to God’s grace and pave the way to ultimate joy in His Kingdom of Heaven.  You cannot experience joy with a soul burdened by sin.  Like someone shedding weight and feeling better through intense exercise, we need to shed the weight of sin through prayer and fasting to truly feel that joy that God intends for us.

When I pray the First Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ Resurrection, I remember that the Catholic Church is first and foremost a joyful Church.  Without Jesus’ resurrection, the Church would be based on little more than a philosophy of a man who lived thousands of years ago.  But with the resurrection, we celebrate with Jesus who conquered death as He said He would to His disciples.  Jesus is alive and present in our lives today helping us achieve that joy of having a close relationship with God our Father.  His resurrection proved that our lives do not end with the challenges and suffering of this world.  It does not end at all because He desires all of us to find true joy in His Heavenly Kingdom.

Circling back to the original topic of joy and family.  We should all try to make our family life an imitation of the joy we desire for ourselves in Heaven.  Maybe, if we give others in our family a small taste of joy, they will desire that true joy that God gives that much more.  And while our family life may never replicate Heaven, I think we can all agree that a pale imitation of Heaven is much better than an imitation of Hell.  If you are looking to spread joy in this world, start with the people who share your roof.

Scripture and the Rosary: Being Prepared

When I glance at news headlines, I see a world that is going downhill at an ever-increasing pace.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, shootings, and fires are sweeping our planet.  In addition to natural and man-made disasters, there is so much anger and division surrounding politics that has crept into everyone’s daily consciousness.  And while I don’t think we’re living in the end times, seeing how quickly things can go from normal to chaotic makes me take stock of my life.  Am I prepared for an emergency?  Is my soul prepared in the event of an unexpected death?  How does scripture and Rosary prayer prepare me for the unexpected?

Last Sunday’s Gospel speaks to our lack of preparation for something we all know is coming.  The Gospel likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast to which everyone was invited.  And yet, one of the people was not prepared for the wedding feast and did not have the proper attire.  The king, who was hosting the party, threw the unprepared guest out.

Whenever I hear this Gospel I can’t help but feel sorry for the person who did not have the proper wedding attire.  After all, he was not planning on going to a wedding banquet on that day.  Why would he be walking down a road with his wedding attire in hand?  Or even more curiously, why did everyone else have their wedding clothes at the ready?  He was just going about his business, was told that there was a party and he was invited, and then the king humiliated him and threw him out.  I sometimes feel like the lesson of this parable is that we should be cautious in accepting God’s offer of grace because it comes with strings attached.  What is Jesus trying to tell us?

I don’t know much about Jewish customs in the first century AD so I may be making some very incorrect assumptions.  But I like to think that maybe, upon receiving the invitation to the wedding feast, people had time to quickly go home and get dressed appropriately.  But the one man who did not fetch his wedding garment maybe thought, “I’m sure the king will be okay if I just come as I am.”  He may have thought that since the king was inviting everyone that he probably wouldn’t be very choosy about how the guests chose to conduct themselves.

In case you haven’t made the connection, the parable of the wedding feast is about our death and God’s judgment.  Like the king inviting everyone to the wedding, God invites us all into His heavenly kingdom.  But we do have to come prepared with a soul free of mortal sin.  God will not accept us if our souls are not in the proper state.  For many of us, that may mean time in Purgatory.  For others, they will be turned out of the kingdom entirely.  But unlike the travelers on the road who received a surprise invitation to the king’s banquet, we all know that God invites us to His heavenly banquet.  We have plenty of time to get ready so that we can enter into His kingdom confidently because we adequately prepared.

When I pray the Rosary, I often meditate on my death and judgment on the Second Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven.  I recall the words of the Creed, “He ascended into Heaven and is seated next to God, the Father Almighty.  He will come to judge the living and the dead.”  It’s right there in the creed we profess every time we pray the Rosary and at Mass.  Jesus will judge us and assess our worthiness to enter His Father’s house after our death.  There’s no mystery, surprises, or ambiguity about that.

“Why am I here? Oh right… the sins”

Yes, God is a God of love and mercy which is why He so readily forgives us when we ask for it through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But we have to show that we want to be with Him and His kingdom through our words, thoughts, and actions.  We have to choose Heaven and work towards it and not assume God will be okay with our inappropriate choices we made in life.  When we make the assumption that we can enter Heaven no matter how we chose to live, we are like the foolish man who had time to prepare and did not take advantage of it.

Lord, as I pray this second glorious mystery of the Rosary, may I remember that You have prepared a place for me in Your kingdom.  May my every action, thought, and word be conducted with the knowledge of Your final judgment.  May my love for you, Oh Lord, be so great that I avoid bad choices in life that would make me unprepared to enter into Your kingdom.

Honor Mary by Asking for Her Help

In his article, Prayer takes Practice, Fr. Ed Broom lays out five ways to improve your prayer life.  For the TL;DR crowd, the summary is:

  1. Conviction — Have faith that prayer is actually important
  2. Confession — Mend your relationship with God whenever you sin
  3. Set a time and place to pray — Routine helps you pray consistently
  4. Mass and holy communion — Mass and the Eucharist are the greatest prayers in the world
  5. Seek our Lady of the RosaryPray the rosary to bring about peace

I want to focus on that last point — seeking out our Lady of the Rosary (naturally, this is a rosary prayer blog after all).  On Aug 22nd, we celebrate the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary which we pray in the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary.  When we pray the rosary we are in essence “crowning” our Heavenly Queen.  Mary wants nothing more than for us for to have a close relationship with her son, Jesus Christ.  We honor and crown her whenever we show faith and conviction that our relationship with Jesus matters to us.

But having conviction and faith is not easy.  Think about it.  You may brood for days over a friend’s disagreeable Facebook post.  You can get into a funk at work or at home when it seems like nothing is going smoothly.  Many of us get tied up in knots over our finances.  But how much time and energy do we devote to thinking about the state of our relationship with Jesus?  Do we put more energy into worrying about Facebook posts than finding time to go to Confession?  Do we spend hours on our hobbies and minutes in prayer?

If you feel like you are falling short in improving your prayer life, I suggest starting with the fifth point on that list.  Pick up a rosary and earnestly tell Mary that you need her help.  Tell her you need the courage to go to Confession.  Tell her you need help to be more engaged at Mass.  Tell her you need help praying on a more regular schedule.  Tell her you need more faith and conviction that prayer actually means something.  Praying the rosary will make all the other items on that list easier to accomplish.

 

You crown Mary through the rosary when you earnestly say, “I need your help!”  Speaking as a parent, I feel honored when my kids need my help no matter how trivial the matter.  I’m lucky that my kids are young because it will feel odd when the day comes when they no longer need my help.  Mary isn’t satisfied with the title of a queen but with nothing to do.  She wants us to come to her with all our worries and problems so she can help us.

And let’s face it, we all need Mary’s help because having a perfect relationship with Jesus is nearly impossible because of the active attempts by Satan to derail us and our own weakness towards sin.  But God knows this challenge and doesn’t leave us in a hopeless situation.  He gave us a Heavenly Queen in Mary and the means for her to help us through the rosary.  Honor Jesus by honoring Mary by asking for her help through rosary prayer.

How the Rosary Helps Us Overcome Obstacles

I don’t watch a lot of television.  However, when I find a few minutes and don’t feel like doing anything serious, I enjoy watching American Ninja Warrior.  It’s a show where athletes run through an obstacle course trying to complete increasingly more rigorous feats.  Most people fail to complete the entire course.  But those that do are ecstatic because they overcame the temptation to quit even when they were fatigued and were entertaining thoughts that they didn’t have the ability to complete the course.

The same conflict between completing a goal or giving up because the obstacles seem too great appears in many of our spiritual lives.  Many of us have a hard time mustering up enough energy to make it through an entire rosary chaplet or Bible reading.  We all want to do God’s will and form a deep relationship with Him through prayer.  And yet, despite all that we desire, we let trivial obstacles like a television show, website, or video game distract or derail us from doing what we know is good.

Saint Peter highlights what happens when we let obstacles overpower us and distract us from God’s will.  In the Gospel, St. Matthew wrote about Jesus walking on the water in a terrible storm.  Peter also tried walking on the water and was initially successful but then was overcome by fear and doubt and sank (Matthew 14:22-36).

Does Saint Peter’s story sound a lot like yours when it comes to prayer and doing God‘s Will?  I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, “This time I’m going to stick to a rigid prayer schedule.”  Or I read a book about the importance and benefits of prayer and get all excited initially only to be overcome by distractions.  Like Saint Peter walking on water, instead of staying focused on my relationship with Jesus Christ I get distracted by the world around me.

But when we make an effort to pray and act according to God’s will, we actually act in a way that is doubly pleasing to God.  Rev. P.J. Michel explains in his book, Temptations:

On this principle, when you observe the law of God and do His will in a way that is displeasing to nature, you acquire a double claim to reward: first, you have obeyed, and secondly, you have obeyed with difficulty and against resistance and combat. The sac­rifice you have made of the natural inclination that solicited and impelled you is rewarded here by new graces and hereafter by an increase of eternal glory and happiness.

Temptations

What does the rosary teach us about praying through distractions and temptations?  You can probably pick any of the Sorrowful Mysteries and see Jesus’ example of doing God’s will despite the pain and suffering.  But that’s too easy of an example for regular RosaryMeds readers!  I want to look at the First Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation.  Here we have Mary being asked to be the Mother of God.  At first, she focuses on all the earthly limitations of such a request.  “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” she asked (Luke 1:34).  But Mary didn’t let all those concerns distract her from accepting the burden and the honor God wanted to bestow on her.

Now jump to the Fifth Glorious Mystery, Mary’s Coronation in Heaven.  Going back to the passage from Temptations, when you do God’s will in the face of difficulty, you increase your eternal glory and happiness.  What better example is there than seeing Mary crowned Queen of Heaven?  She followed God’s will even when that meant seeing her son rejected and crucified.

When you don’t feel like you have the time or energy to pray the rosary, look to Mary’s example of the grace God gives you when you make the effort to pray and do God’s will despite the difficulty.  It may be hard, but the reward dwarfs the inconvenience.

How to Recover After a Disappointing Lent

We’re now in the middle of the Easter Octave and Lent 2017 is in the history books.  Maybe you didn’t have the most spiritual Lent this year.  Maybe you didn’t give something up or cheated a bit.  Maybe you didn’t receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, didn’t fast, or didn’t commit yourself to prayer.  Some of you may not have acted any differently during Lent than any other time of the year.

In the wake of a disappointing Lenten season, it’s easy to throw your hands into the air and say, “well, better luck next year.  That’s when I’ll really take Lent seriously.”  With that attitude, you basically turn Lent into some sort of spiritual open enrollment period where, if you miss it, you have to wait an entire year before you can make changes to your spiritual behavior.  Granted, I haven’t read the entire Bible (yet) but I don’t think God specified a time window on when you can convert and invest in a deeper relationship with Him.

I also hope there isn’t a three month wait list to receive God’s grace.

What can you do now that Lent is over?  Easter is a celebration that lasts for 50 days.  What better way to celebrate than committing yourself to increased prayer, fasting, and receiving the sacraments.  Like Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast, we want to come dressed to this glorious Easter celebration “dressed” appropriately.  That means with a soul cleansed of sin and a humble spirit of conversion.  Sure, we may not have used all 40 days of Lent to adequately prepare, but getting prepared now and arriving a little late to the party is better than missing the party completely.  Better late than never, right?

On the flip side, maybe you had a great Lent which is turning into a great Easter.  And while we may ease up a bit on the fasting and sacrifice, we shouldn’t do a complete 180 and undo those gains by sinning, not praying, and ignoring our faith.  Hopefully, what you did during Lent will have a lasting impression.  For example, I gave up snacking for Lent.  But just because Lent is over, it doesn’t mean I’m going to become a glutton (although I may have gone overboard on the donuts last Sunday).  While I may not be as steadfast as I was during Lent, I think I will continue to abstain from snacking at least two days a week.

Remember, it will all still be there tomorrow. Stay strong and resist temptation.

After Jesus’ death, many people thought they could back to their “old” lives and basically wrote off Jesus as someone who had some interesting ideas but died tragically.  Saint Peter momentarily went back to fishing.  Jesus’ disciples started leaving Jerusalem to pick up where they left off.  We too may have that feeling that now that Easter Sunday has passed, it’s time we return to our “normal” lives.  But Jesus’ resurrection actually created a new normal and permanently altered human kind‘s relationship with God.  Similarly, each Lent and Easter, we should be creating a new normal for ourselves as well; always pushing ourselves to form a deeper relationship with God.  Let’s not make the same mistake Jesus’ disciples made treating Jesus as a passing fad.  Instead, prolong the spirit of the Resurrection and make your relationship with Him something you work on every day for the rest of your life.

And Jesus Wept…

We are coming down the home stretch of this Lenten season.  Like a movie, the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is hitting its climax as Jesus’ miracles get larger and more public but so does the ire of the Jewish authorities.  It, of course, culminates with Jesus’ crucifixion and then resurrection.  Similar to how the readings are hitting their crescendo, so too should our observance of Lent.  It’s time to pick up the praying, fasting, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and just putting our faith front and center in our lives.

This upcoming Sunday’s Gospel is the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  I want to focus on one specific verse.  It’s a short, three-word sentence — “And Jesus wept (John 11:35).”  It is easy to overlook the significance of this sentence when you know what Jesus is about to do.  In fact, this sentence does not seem to make a lot of sense.  If Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, why did he weep?  Naturally, the other people wept because they did not know Jesus was going to raise Lazarus.  But why would Jesus, someone who healed and raised others from dead, weep when he knew that Lazarus’ state was only temporary?

English: Picture of the And Jesus Wept statue ...
English: Picture of the And Jesus Wept statue that stands next to the Oklahoma City National Memorial. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus’ weeping ties him to our shared humanity with him.  It is so easy to see Jesus’ divinity in the accounts of him healing others, performing miracles, and resurrecting from the dead.  On top of that, we have the Catholic Church and it’s billion+ members in all its grandeur.  But after 2000 years we tend to forget that Jesus was also human.  He shared all the same emotions as us except the tendency to sin.  Even when he knew that he was going to raise Lazarus, his weeping told people that he sympathized with them and understood their grief.  He did not distance himself but instead drew us closer to God by making himself more relatable.

When we pray the rosary, we should remember Jesus’ humanity in addition to his divinity.  Remember that despite all the miracles he performed, Jesus was one of us.  He showed grief at the death of a loved one.  He showed fear in the Garden of Gesthemene before being arrested and crucified.  He showed anger when he threw the merchants out of the temple or the countless times he chastised Peter.  Even going back to the story of Lazarus, the Gospel says that Jesus was “perturbed” by everyone’s lack of faith.  Yes, it seems like Jesus wasn’t immune from frustration.

Jesus asks a lot of us.  He asks us to live for the Kingdom of Heaven and convert by turning away from our sinful or earthly ways.  Like a defiant teenager rebelling against his parents, we may tell Jesus, “Easy for you to say!  You’re perfect!  You just don’t understand what it’s like to be me!”  But Jesus replies, “I understand perfectly.   Remember, I know what it is like to be human.  I shared the same feelings and emotions.  And I ask these things of you because I know what it is like to be you.  I’m not some distant God who does not know the human condition for I experienced it personally.”

You think you have it tough, try healing a man on the Sabbath!

Fasting, praying, reading the Bible, and confessing sins are all difficult during Lent.  And in general, living a spiritual life can be difficult.  But the Church calls us to this life not because it expects us to fail.  The Church does not call us to a holy life that is completely beyond our ability to grasp.  The Church follows Jesus’ teachings born out of his experience being human and knowing what we are capable of.

How the Rosary Helps Us Avoid The Unforgivable Sin

Last Monday’s Gospel reading contains a verse that has always disturbed me:

He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:22-32).

I never liked this idea of an unforgivable sin. I was always taught that there was nothing you could do that God could not forgive. Jesus‘ entire ministry focused on redeeming those that Jewish society labeled unredeemable — tax collectors, prostitutes, Romans, and criminals. And while Jesus forgave all these people, He taught that there was a sin that He was unwilling or unable to forgive. That didn’t seem right to me.

Jeromebosch1503
Ummm… no thanks!

I did some digging on this verse and came across an article on EWTN titled THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN written by James Akin. It’s a long read but worth it for an in-depth analysis of Jesus’ words. But Mr. Akin summarizes the unforgivable sin like this:

Jesus asserts (v 30) that one must ally with him or be opposed to him and “through this” he tells us (v 31) that the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Blaspheming the Spirit is thus a failure to repent and ally oneself with Jesus. Since this can always be done during one’s life (cf. 20:1-15), blasphemy against the Holy Spirit must be a final refusal to repent, or final impenitence.

When one refuses to ask for forgiveness, those sins remain unforgiven. The unforgiveness does not come from Jesus as He is always willing to forgive. It comes from us refusing either to acknowledge our sins or refusing to ask for His forgiveness. The comforting fact in all of this is that there are two ways to escape the trap of the unforgiven sin:

1) Do not commit any sins. Unfortunately, this is impossible for any human outside of Mary and Jesus. Everyone from the most devout popes to every saint fell into sin at various points in their lives.
2) Ask for forgiveness. Penitence is the only realistic way to avoid committing the unforgivable sin of impenitence.

There is one more aspect to this topic that I’m hesitant to mention because of its immense risk. Even if you die with unforgiven sins, that does not mean you’re automatically damned.  After all, many good people do die with unforgiven venial sins and the Church teaches that they can go to Heaven. God does have infinite mercy which He can show to anyone. But, as I heard one theologian put it, don’t gamble you soul on God’s mercy when receiving genuine forgiveness is so simple.

Repentance and reconciliation are themes found throughout the rosary. The Fifth Joyful Mystery shows just how far many of us can move away from Jesus and not even realize it.  It is only when we come back looking for Him with a sorrowful (aka, remorseful) heart that we find Him again.  Jesus echoes our battle with sin, a cycle of falling and finding the courage to get back up, in the carrying of the cross in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery.  Finally, let’s remember that Mary, assumed into Heaven in the Fourth Glorious Mystery, has constantly taught in her apparitions to approach her Son with a repentant heart.

The unforgiven sin is a serious and scary prospect.  However, avoiding it is completely within our power.  It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation.