Rosary Meditation: The First Sorrowful Mystery

This rosary meditation reflects on the First Sorrowful Mystery — The Agony in the Garden.  Before Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified, He prayed in a garden for strength.  First, He prayed that God would let this horrible ordeal pass over Him.  He later found his apostles asleep after he asked them to pray with Him.  Finally, Jesus said that He would do God’s will despite any fears He had.

This mystery revolves around prayer as well as the lack of it.  First we see Jesus facing His certain death.  But what does He do in that situation?  Does He run and hide?  Does He ask the apostles to fight and protect Him?  Does he complain endlessly and ask, “why me?”  No, instead He prays and prays earnestly.  Jesus prays so hard that He starts sweating blood.  That make me wonder, have I every prayed so hard for anything in my life?  When I face large challenges, do I first turn to prayer and ask God for strength and guidance or do I try to figure out some way to avoid them?  Or do I just throw out a quick “God, help me!” without much effort or faith that God will actually do anything.

This rosary mystery really forces us to focus on the quality of our prayers.  Ask yourself, do you earnestly lay your soul before God in prayer or do you just go through the words and motions?  I know from my experience that when I pray I am often thinking of other things.  I’m thinking about work, a television show or movie, finances, something someone said, or politics.  When we pray are we like Jesus laying ourselves out before God or are we like the apostles — physically there but spiritually asleep?

We also see the dichotomy of Jesus being both fully human and fully God.  He shows us very human emotions such as the fear of being tortured and killed and disappointment upon discovering His apostles sleeping instead of praying.  He pleads with God that this terrible fate not befall Him.  Fear and desperation are not exactly traits we associate with God but ones we use to describe ourselves.  And there lies the reason why we see Jesus in this very human state.  If we saw the fully divine Jesus go to His death, fully at peace because He knew about His ultimate resurrection and redemption, we would not be able to relate to Him much less imitate Him.  Seeing Jesus scared reminds us that being scared is a normal human response when facing monumental obstacles and challenges in our lives.  However, Jesus shows us that we cannot let those emotions impede us from doing God’s will.  We truly follow in Jesus’ footsteps when we imitate His ways despite our human fears and doubts that make us want to do otherwise.

Jesus’ experience in the garden mirrors the apostles’ experience in the Third Glorious Mystery – The Decent of the Holy Spirit.  The apostles were scared of the fate that might befall them but God gave them strength and guidance through the Holy Spirit.  Their worldly circumstances did not change and they still faced some rather monumental challenges.  Similarly, God did not change the world so that Jesus could escape crucifixion.  God knew, as Jesus did, that ultimate salvation could only be found at the cross.  We should remember that the reason God does not remove obstacles and challenges in our lives is so that we can grow closer to Him and become better people by enduring those challenges.  In other words, God shows His might, not by removing obstacles, but by giving us the strength to overcome them.

What can we do to put this mystery into practice?  For starters, let us try to pray earnestly with our whole heart, mind, and soul.  Our relationship with God is something too important for Him to occupy our thoughts alongside the latest episode of “American Idol”, a funny joke, or where the stock market is currently trading.  Wherever we are in our prayer life I know we can all probably step up our intensity.  That might mean trying to concentrate harder when praying the rosary, taking time out to say grace before a meal, or really focusing on prayers during Mass.  Perhaps we can take the time to go to Adoration and really focus and building a stronger relationship with God.  We should also pray for those who are feeling scared and trapped by life’s obstacles.  Whether they know it or not, they follow in Jesus’ footsteps and God will give them strength and guidance just as He gave those gifts to Jesus in that lonely garden.

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Rosary Meditation: The Third Glorious Mystery

Holy Spirit Stained Glass

This rosary meditation reflects on the Third Glorious Mystery — The Decent of the Holy Spirit.  The apostles, scared of suffering a similar fate as Jesus Christ, hid in a locked house.  Suddenly, a strong wind came through and tongues of fire appeared above the their heads.  Strengthened with the gift of the Holy Spirit they went out and made bold proclamations understood in any foreign language.

Many of us have heard this story before.  In fact, we often pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us through our daily lives.  We ask for just one good day where we don’t make any big mistakes at work.  We ask the Holy Spirit to be with us as we take that big exam.  We ask that we say all the right things to all the right people.  In short, we ask the Holy Spirit to make our lives easier and not screw up in any large ways.

But what gifts does the Holy Spirit really give us?  Is the Holy Spirit supposed to be a sort of spiritual cheat sheet to give us the answers to life’s big problems?  How many times do we ask God or the Holy Spirit for a “favor” with the only purpose to make our lives easier?  Like the Second Luminous Mystery, we have the tendency to only ask for God’s gifts when it will somehow help us out.  For example, how many times have you uttered a small prayer when buying a lottery ticket?  Like a little child we like to tell God that we’ll be good if He just helps us out this one time.  That, of course, is missing the entire point of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit does not come down to magically change the world to make our lives easier.  As much as we may wish it, the gifts do not “pave over” all of life’s obstacles so that we may continue living any way we wish.  The world in which the apostles lived did not magically change after they received the tongues of fire.  The people who wished them harm were still there.  Those who crucified Jesus did not vanish.  Nor where the apostles filled with any more knowledge than what they had learned from Jesus’ own words.  After all, did they not already have experience preaching the way of Christ when Jesus was still alive?

The real gift of the Holy Spirit is courage to do God’s will.  When it comes down to it, we all know the basics of right and wrong.  Very few of us deal with those moral edge cases on a daily basis if at all (my prayers go out to those that do).  We know the Ten Commandments and we have an understanding that Jesus’ way is one of love.  And yet, often we fail to act on that knowledge.  But there are those times when we do the right thing even when we know doing something different would be a lot easier.  I think those are the times when the Holy Spirit is driving us the most in our lives.  In short, if we resolve to live God’s will — to choose good over evil and right over wrong the Holy Spirit will give us that little push in the right direction.

I do not want to reduce the Holy Spirity to just one characteristic.  Instead, I think we should look at courage to do God’s will as one of the gifts we often overlook.  Let us pray and reflect that the Holy Spirit will give us the courage to do God’s will even if it makes our earthly lives more difficult.  The next time we think about taking an easy way out of a difficult situation, let us look to the Holy Spirit to lead is back to what is right and face whatever consequences come our way.  After all, God never gives us challenges we cannot handle, is more than generous in His gift of the Holy Spirit, and is infinitely forgiving when we fall short and sin.  Armed with knowledge of Jesus’ teachings, courage from the Holy Spirit, and God’s forgiveness, what do we really have to fear from this world?

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Rosary Meditation: The Third Joyful Mystery

Today’s rosary meditation is the Third Joyful Mystery — The Nativity.  We reflect and pray on Jesus’ humble birth in a stable.  This is an important mystery to focus on, not just during the Christmas season, but throughout the year.  The nature of Jesus’ birth sets the stage for how He lived His life and provides a foundation for His teachings.  The Nativity provides us a clear picture on how Jesus calls us to live.

When I think of this mystery the first word that comes to my mind is “humility.”  Jesus came into this world in the humblest of surroundings.  Hundreds of miles away from Rome, the seat of power in this world, the true king of kings was born.  He was born without money, riches, or any earthly power.  He was born surrounded by peasant shepherds, not a royal court.  This humble birth was no accident as it showed from the very beginning that Jesus’ ways were not the world’s ways.  His mission was not one of earthly conquest and accumulation of power nor was it to bring the Jews out of the submission of the Romans.  Instead, He showed us the living a humble and meek life was His way and the only path to His Heavenly kingdom.

I think Jesus’ humble birth contrasts nicely with another word usually associated with Christmas — “trappings.”  The dictionary defines that word as “outward decoration or dress; ornamental equipment.”  I see the trappings of Christmas all over in the amount of money spent on presents, decorations, clothes, and food.  But it’s not only Christmas were we seem to put a premium on the trappings of life.  Many of us tend to focus all year long on living in a nice home, driving a fancy car, and having that dream job.  While none of that is bad in itself, when we start to put the comforts of this world above the rewards of the next we move away from how Jesus lived His life and how He calls us to live ours.  The trappings of this life literally trap us into living only for this world which amount to absolutely nothing in Jesus’ Heavenly kingdom.

So let us pray that we have the strength to live as Jesus did — humbling and meekly.  Let us pray for the strength to not put our earthly desires ahead of our Heavenly needs.  In the end God will not judge us based on the cars we drive, the value of our stock portfolio, or what position we held at our jobs.  Those are just the trappings of this world, the ornamental decorations, while how well you followed Jesus’ path is the real substance.  Let us meditate and pray this mystery of the rosary that we can embrace Jesus’ ways as manifested in the Nativity.

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