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.

What’s in a Name? Cecil the lion and the Natural Law

I tried really hard to avoid writing about Cecil the lion. Like many people, I don’t really see the point in big game hunting. But I also don’t understand how this one case escalated to international news.  I don’t know the statistics, but I assume big game hunting (legal and illegal) goes on all the time.  Why this case got so much attention beats me.  I then came across an article that summed up why maybe this lion story touched such a collective nerve.

Over at CatholicAllYear.com, Kendra wrote an article titled Why We Feel Better if We Care About Cecil the Lion.  She recognizes the human need to acknowledge universal truth in a world that tries hard to suppress it.  She writes:

A huge segment of our population has been struggling ever since they reached the age of reason to reconcile a personal disgust with the idea of abortion, with the loudly trumpeted demands that we all must recognize that it’s NONE OF OUR BUSINESS and we’d better just pipe down. Choice. My body. Reproductive freedom. It’s not really a baby. All of it has been shouted in the streets until two generations now honestly can’t tell right from wrong or good from evil.

The same goes for other evils we’re supposed to celebrate as choice: like euthanasia, and free love, and conceiving children in such a way as to necessarily deprive them of one or both of their parents.

Moral relativism denies a fundamental part of our Truth-seeking human natures. As human beings, we crave moral absolutes. We know somewhere deep down that there IS such a thing as wrong, such a thing as evil. And we want so badly to be allowed to point a finger at it, finally, that when poor, not-actually-all-that-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things Cecil the lion comes along, we can barely contain ourselves.

Here’s my take.  People are upset because unlike other animals killed by hunters, this lion has a name and a history.  Like we do with our pets, we personify Cecil so his killing strikes at the same parts of our emotions as a human being’s murder.  This personification is why we cry watching Old Yeller and the lack of it is why most of us don’t give a second thought to the thousands of animals that are killed every day for food.

This lack of identification is also why we don’t bat much of an eye over the evil of abortion.  Because it’s evilness becomes strikingly obvious when you realize that every abortion is a life lost.  Does the fact that the aborted life didn’t have a name or a history make it any less tragic when he/she is killed?  Are we as a culture so short sighted that we don’t understand that an aborted life would have had a name and history if we let him/her grow?  We’ve murdered millions of Alisons, Margarets, and Jakes.  We’ve murdered many successful doctors, writers, engineers, and scientists that the world will never know.  We’ve murdered millions of best friends, husbands, shoulders to cry on, mentors, and co-workers.  It’s shocking what something as simple as attaching a name to a life does to the perceived value of it.  In one case, attaching a name to an animal raises international outcry while not attaching a name to a human being allows the murder of thousands every day.

Early ultrasound
Dr. Sam Livingston, a promising young physician, killed and harvested for his organs

The RosaryMeds Prescription

Whenever the issue of abortion comes up as it is with the release of these shocking videos from The Center for Medical Progress and debates within the halls of Congress, the Second Joyful Mystery seems like an obvious mystery to meditate on.  Elizabeth exclaims how the baby in her womb leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:44).  It’s not “the tissue moved” or “some cells divided”, but a baby leaped out of joy.  This mystery reminds us just how precious life is at every stage of development and that we are infused with a soul at the moment of conception.  We must pray for the conversion of souls and the conversion of our culture to acknowledge the inherent dignity of human life at all stages.

English: Statue of the Visitation in the Churc...
English: Statue of the Visitation in the Church of the Visitation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But let’s dive deeper.  What about this craving for universal truth that the CatholicAllYear article mentions?  What rosary mystery speaks to the importance of knowing what is right and wrong?  The First Luminous Mystery comes to mind.  When I meditate on this mystery, I remember that not everyone is baptized into the Catholic Church and yet everyone does have the God given gift to know what is inherently good and what is evil.  This is often referred to as natural law and it’s something God inscribes in all our hearts; both the baptized and the unbaptized alike.

We live in a culture that tries so very hard to deny this natural law and reject this gift from God.  When we pray the First Luminous Mystery, let’s remember to pray for the conversion of those who struggle in life because of their denial of truth.  We must also pray for the conversion of our world to one that lives in acknowledgement of natural law, not in denial of it.


 

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5 Ways the Rosary Offers Relief from Today’s Headlines

Meditation ideas on the Glorious Mysteries of the holy rosary for dealing with all the troubling news the world is encountering right now.

Lately there has been a lot of news that has many people thinking the world is falling apart. We hear of people suffering from natural disasters across the globe, atrocities committed by groups like ISIS across the Middle East, silly presidential election news (Trump?  Hillary Clinton’s favorite ice cream flavor?), and troubling social/political news about Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and ObamaCare. Basically, if you’re looking to get worried and upset about something, you don’t have to look much further than your Facebook news feed to grow a few gray hairs.

To me, praying the rosary is all about gaining perspective. And I think everyone could use a little perspective right now. I try to remember that the world has never been a perfect place and has been marked by problems both natural and man made. However, we live in a time when news has never been more accessible which means we get more bad news at an accelerated pace. Or we get a distorted view of the scope of outrage or support on any given issue. But thinking society is falling apart isn’t new.  Mankind has always had its share of problems.

Picture back to the time Jesus lived. If Facebook existed then people’s walls would have been filled with complaints about cheating tax collectors, Roman occupation, and corrupt pharisees. Furthermore, people were probably praying for the same types of solutions we pray for today.  Something to the tune of “Please God, make all our problems go away.”

Jesus did not come into this world to magically change the world with a wave of his hand.  He didn’t make all the Jews’ problems go away. But he did answer the people’s prayers. He did that not by making things easier but by challenging people to look beyond the troubled state of the world and their immediate, physical needs. He wanted them to concentrate more on the state of their souls rather than the actions of Cesar.  For example, he told the rich man to look beyond earthly wealth and to gain riches in Heaven by being charitable (Mark 10:17-31).  He said that those who are persecuted in this world will find glory in Heaven (Matthew 5:10).  He said that we all have to take up our crosses in this life so that we may find comfort in the next (Matthew 16:24-27).

In that spirit, let’s take a look at the Glorious mysteries of the rosary and meditate on gaining a more heavenly perspective instead of dwelling so much on the today’s troubling issues.

#1. Live for something more than this earthly world

The First Glorious Mystery is about Jesus rising from the dead.  The perspective gained from this mystery is that our earthly death is not an end.  Jesus’ crucifixion and death was only a transition from his earthly life to his true, heavenly one.  Jesus’ rising proved that there is so much more to us than the physical realities of this world.

When we think about all the injustice, death, and suffering in this world we should remember that none of it will persist after our earthly death as we rise to new life in Jesus’ kingdom.  And while a lifetime of pain and suffering may seem like an awfully huge cross to carry, it isn’t even a measurable instant of time compared to the eternal joy and happiness Jesus prepared for us in Heaven through his resurrection.

#2. Pray for those have fallen

The Second Glorious Mystery is about Jesus ascending into Heaven.  The perspective gained from this mystery is that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, and will judge the living and the dead.  This is important to understand because we need to pray for the repentance and conversion of those who live in sin and cause so much scandal, misery, and unhappiness.  It may seem easy to complain and become stressed over others’ misdeeds.  It’s also easy to ignore them and focus only at our own salvation.  But we do need to pray for them and always be an example to the world of Jesus’ Truth.  Because everyone, including those who live in sin, will one day stand before the Lord with their sins in plain view.  Since we are called to love one another, we should do whatever is possible so that everyone, saint and sinner alike, will enjoy eternal happiness in Heaven.

#3. Let the Holy Spirit guide you

The Third Glorious Mystery is about the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles after Jesus’ ascension.  We live in a difficult world but we can look to the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and courage to persevere and maybe even change the hearts of others.  I don’t think any of the apostles would have thought that they were going to change the world when Jesus first called them to put down their nets and become fishers of men.  But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit they did just that by boldly venturing out and spreading Jesus’ truth.

We too may not think that there is much we can do when we see what appears to be impossible situations to fix or the deep seated hatred in people’s hearts.  But the Holy Spirit does give us the power to live according to Jesus’ truth and to lovingly bring people into God’s grace.  Like when Jesus was here in this world, he did not provide a quick fix to humanity’s problems.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit won’t give us a quick fix either.  But if we have faith and let the Holy Spirit guide us, we can personally thrive and bring others to know Jesus Christ.

#4. Follow our mother Mary’s roadmap for happiness

The Fourth Glorious Mystery is about Mary’s assumption into Heaven.  God had a very special plan for Mary and her assumption shows just how revered and elevated she is.  She was not only set aside to be the vessel through which God would manifest himself in human form, but she was also set aside to be our guide and mediatrix after her earthly death.  Like with the Third Glorious Mystery, the perspective we should gain from this mystery is that Mary is always there to help guide us closer to her son’s love.  She has appeared many times with a message of hope, love, and a call to action for conversion.  Over the generations, she has laid out a roadmap of prayer, fasting, and repentance which we should follow.  While it’s easy to get down and think nothing we do can do that will make much difference, Mary says otherwise.  And we should all listen to our mother.

#5. Remember that you are protected

The Fifth Glorious Mystery is Mary’s coronation in Heaven.  We have to understand that there are evil force at work.  And Satan and his minions are playing the long game where they want you to focus all your energy on this world in the hopes that you will be led astray and become his slave for eternity.  He wants you to “go with the crowd” even if what is popular in modern society goes against God’s plan.  Or he wants you to fall into despair, blame God for all that is wrong with the world, and turn away from your faith. But Mary is a powerful queen who reigns in Heaven.  When we accept and live for God’s Heavenly Kingdom then we fall under Mary’s protection against evil and Satan’s influence.  No matter what transpires in our world we know that we will have protection for what matters most — our eternal soul.

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Have Better Rosary Meditation by Preparing for a Confrontation

The other day I took a short break at work and went for a walk to clear my head. It was a bright, sunny day so I took a path that followed a small inlet of water from the San Francisco Bay. While I usually listen to an audiobook on my walks (remember, I’m still trying to get through the entire Catechism this year) I discovered that I forgot my headphones. Instead I took my rosary out of my pocket and began to pray it.

As I was taking my prayer walk, I suddenly got a sinking feeling in my stomach. What would happen if someone saw me and was offended by my public display of religion? How would I respond if someone told me to put those beads away? As outrageous as that may sound, remember that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was very possible to come across an atheist with the ACLU on speed dial in my neck of the woods.

4926088644_cb968609a8_o
“How dare you pray in public! What if a child saw you?”

I then got my wits together and thought of a more realistic scenario. What if someone saw me walking with my rosary and curiously asked what it was? What if someone asked me to describe rosary prayer or describe the mysteries I was meditating on? That got my mind racing on how I would explain the rosary to a casual passerby.

I rehearsed talking about how I meditate on not being so materialistic when I pray the First Glorious Mystery. I ran a through a small monologue in my head about living a clean life of good works when praying the Second Glorious Mystery. I pictured myself saying how I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me when I pray the Third Glorious Mystery. And so on…

And while I didn’t know it at the time, when constructing my defense for a possible confrontation I was in fact meditating and thinking about the themes and lessons of each rosary mystery. I wasn’t thinking about work. I wasn’t thinking about a movie, tv show, or news article. I wasn’t thinking about any of those topics that usually distract me and put me on prayer “autopilot.” Like a student furiously cramming for a test, I was focused of all the reasons I pray the rosary and what lessons it teaches me.  In short, I was praying the rosary correctly.

I was never cornered by atheist. I didn’t have anyone come up and ask questions. I didn’t get any odd stares from people I passed. But by preparing for the worst I did experience one of my deeper, least interrupted rosary meditations.

Are you prepared to explain what you’re meditating on if someone asks?  Suppose you had an apparition of the Virgin Mary while you were praying.  Sound crazy?  Remember, you don’t pray the rosary in a vacuum.  Who do you think you’re asking to intercede for you when you pray the rosary?  What if Mary vocally responded as she’s done to a select few throughout history.  What if Our Lady first thanked you for praying the rosary and then quizzed you on what exactly you were praying for.  Would you be ready to answer or scrambling because you zoned out?

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The Strategy Behind Banning Public Religiousness

Here are the results of a poll that I’m sure will ruffle a few feathers on both sides of the political and church isle.  A recently released Gallop poll found that one’s “religiousness” is a great predictor of his political affiliation.  It found that those who practices their faith regularly are more likely to lean conservative while someone who is secular leans more liberal.  According to the story on the Blaze:

Among the survey’s findings: Forty-nine percent of very religious people support the GOP, compared to only 29 percent of nonreligious people who do.  Just 36 percent of very religious people support the Democrats, while 52 percent of nonreligious people support the party.

This is where the anecdotal evidence comes out where someone says the poll isn’t true because their sainted grandmother also votes Democrat.  Or their non church-going uncle is an avid Republican.  Of course there will be exceptions to every poll which is why they are reported in percentages to reveal general trends.  It won’t always reflect someone’s personal experience.  Polls also reveal correlations, but not necessarily causation.  We can’t say with any degree of certainty why nonreligious skew towards voting Democrat while religious lean towards voting Republican.

Check your religion at the door!

Now that we have the legal disclaimer out of the way, let’s explore political strategy.  If this poll is true then it explains a lot about our current political climate.  If Democratic policies and their vision for American society appeal more to nonreligious, then the Democratic party will have a vested interest in making society as secular as possible.  A more secular population equals more Democrat votes.  You don’t have to look very hard to see various tactics at play towards that goal:

  • The HHS mandate and rhetoric that one’s faith cannot play any role in how they run their business.
  • The vitriol many liberals show to any pro-life groups or any organization wishing to place any limits, no matter how reasonable, on abortion.
  • The attempt to redefine our Constitutional freedom of religion to freedom of “worship.”
  • Freaking out at any open display of anything even vaguely religious like a piece of twisted metal shaped like a cross at the Ground Zero museum.
  • Openly rigid enforcement of the “separation of church and state” (although that phrase does not appear anywhere in the US Constitution).

My point isn’t to just merely bash Democratic strategy.  I’m sure many of my readers could probably come up with an equally long list of Republicans promoting religion to gain votes and influence.  I just want to point out that we need to tread carefully and explore possible underlying motives whenever a politician either promotes or tries to curb the role of religion in public life.  Call me jaded, but I don’t think many politicians actually act on religious issues from deeply held beliefs, but because it will land their party more votes.

Teach children religion for a better community...
Teach children religion for a better community — religion means reverence – obedience – order, irreligion means chaos – crime – social collapse, parents, wake up! American Legion (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

The Rosary Connection

When I think of religious vs. nonreligious and Democrat vs. Republican, the Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary comes to mind.  When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He left His mission to build His Church in the hands of His disciples.  Very early in the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples decree that Jesus’ Church wasn’t exclusive to the Jews but open to everyone.  We also must remember, as Jesus’ disciples today, that we must invite all to experience Jesus’ love and saving grace whether they be religious or nonreligious, Democrat or Republican, Dodger fan or Giants fan, etc.  Some groups may put up more of a fight than others to Jesus’ message and our tactics may need to change based on the situation.  But in the end, the mission hasn’t changed since the disciples saw Jesus ascend into Heaven centuries ago — share His love with everyone.  Jesus didn’t discriminate nor fear the response to the truth.  Neither will we.

Our Prayer

Oh Lord, may we follow in Jesus’ early disciples footsteps and find the energy to promote His truth.  May we not be afraid to promote that truth with anyone regardless of their political affiliation, nationality, gender, or personality.  May we listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find the right tactics so that Your love best shines forth to all of those who need to hear it.  May we not forget Your charge to the early Church when you ascended into Heaven — spread My Word to the world.

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The Pope Said What Now?

Update: This article is not about the pope’s recent statements in America magazine and commented on in the Huffington Post and New York Times.  It is about something he wrote in an Italian newspaper a few weeks ago.  But don’t worry, I’ll discuss the America magazine article in an upcoming post.

A few days ago, Pope Francis wrote a lengthy article responding to some questions proposed by Eugenio Scalfari, co-founder of the newspaper La Repubblica and an atheist. First of all, I find it amazing that the pope can even find the time to read an editorial in a local newspaper, let alone respond to it. I think it shows just how well Pope Francis understands modern tactics of evangelization. He knows that encyclicals are great for diving deep into questions of the Catholic Faith, but if you really want to connect with people you need to communicate in a more casual way using popular media. He might have done more good and educated more people about the Catholic faith in his letter to Mr. Scalfari than what he would have done in ten encyclicals.

The main purpose of Pope Francis’ letter was to address how the Church views atheists regarding their salvation and entrance into Heaven. The pope wrote:

First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith. Given that – and this is fundamental – God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience. In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil. The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.

Now the popular media jumped all over this statement essentially declaring the pope said something like “all atheists go to Heaven” or that He reversed some doctrine; neither which is true. This isn’t the first time the media completely misreported the pope’s comments and certainly won’t be the last. The pope did not unveil a new doctrine, but only reiterated what the Church has taught for generations. The fact that this seems new to everyone, including many Catholics, shows just how little we understand about the Catholic faith.

The Church has always taught that there is no way any of us here on Earth know who will go to Heaven and who will end up in Hell. Yes, we have a lot of guidelines, teachings, and commandments passed on from God through the prophets, His son Jesus Christ, and Church tradition. But there is always that unknown factor that the pope mentions — God’s infinite mercy. We just cannot know who God forgives and why.

Remember, the Church teaches that non-Catholics can go to Heaven if they’ve never had an opportunity to know God’s Church but live according to the natural laws of morality. When we think about this scenario, we often think of some isolated tribe out on a tropical island somewhere who have never seen a bible. But what about the person who never went to Mass growing up? What about the person who is surrounded by people who actively hate the Church or just don’t place any value on organized religion? What about the person whose view of the Church comes solely from sources that misreport the Church’s teachings? What about the fallen away Catholic who just went to Sunday Mass out of obligation but never really participated? Aren’t these also people who never really “knew” God’s Church? The Catholic faith has always taught that these people, including atheists, are also able to find mercy and forgiveness just like the stereotypical “isolated native” that has never seen a church or opened a bible.

Whenever I think about our ultimate fate, I’m reminded of the Second Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Ascension. When I pray and meditate on that rosary mystery, I remember that Jesus took His rightful place in Heaven at the right hand of God and acts as our final judge. We know that our actions, combined with God’s mercy, will decide whether we spend eternity in God’s kingdom or Hell. We should be thankful that God is infinitely merciful and that whether we end up in Heaven isn’t an in/out, true/false, on/off proposition. Because if it were, I dare say that most people would probably fall short of meeting the requirements to enter Heaven. We all have our failings, but it’s God’s mercy, both through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and at our final judgement, that allow us to live for eternity in His kingdom.

But why must we understand and live by the Catholic teachings when the pope said anyone, including atheists, can go to Heaven? Are devout Catholics just suckers wasting their time going to Mass and receiving the sacraments? Far from it. Remember, the pope said that God’s mercy is infinite, but not automatic. Ask yourself, do you want to rely solely on God’s mercy to enter into His kingdom? Or would you like to actually increase your odds, as it were, by following His Word? Let’s put it another way. Suppose there was a way to learn the winning numbers in the lottery ahead of time. But to learn those numbers, you have to put in years of hard work. Would you do it? After all, you could always avoid the work and just leave it up to chance. Maybe you will get lucky and guess the right numbers. The same goes for salvation, but the stakes are much higher since it’s dealing with our eternal souls. Are you going to leave such an important decision solely on God’s mercy or do you want to put forth the effort now to really earn your place in God’s kingdom?

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