Rosary Meditation: The Second Joyful Mystery

Today’s rosary meditation is the Second Joyful Mystery — The Visitation. After accepting God’s will in the Annunciation, Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist. This mystery is one of the best examples of using God’s grace to help others. As the Mother of God, Mary chose to use God’s grace to serve others and not to be served. This is a theme seen in Jesus’ ministry as well as the lives of the saints.

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Today’s rosary meditation is the Second Joyful Mystery — The Visitation.  After accepting God’s will in the Annunciation, Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist.  Mary came with this message, “My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my savior.  For He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness; all ages to come shall call me blessed” (Lk 1:46-48, emphasis mine).  She stayed with Elizabeth for three months presumably offering a helping hand whenever needed.

This mystery is one of the best examples of using God’s grace to help others.  Keep in mind that traveling to see relatives in the time of the Roman Empire was no easy task.  It would take weeks, if not months, to travel between villages.  Traveling was a challenge and dangerous for the very strong let alone a pregnant teenager.  Despite the hardship, Mary made the journey in order to share the good news with her cousin and help in any way she could.  As the Mother of God she chose to use God’s grace to serve others and not to be served.  As she said in Luke’s Gospel, God’s greatness is found in His lowly servants doing His will, not those who try to be masters.   We see this same theme through Jesus who is King of Heaven and yet came into this world as a humble servant.

When I meditate on this mystery I’m often reminded about the difference between acquiring God’s grace and using it.  I know that prayer, fasting, and receiving the Sacraments (particularly washing away sin during Confession) all help me achieve God’s grace.  However, I often fail in using grace to help others in need.  I could help others more whether it be donating some of my time for charitable causes to just making myself available when friends or family need me.  I’m sure I miss great opportunities to actually put my faith into practice all the time.   Ask yourself, are you using all of your God-given gifts to their full potential?  Are you choosing to serve others as Mary did or are you expecting to be served?

The lesson behind The Visitation is that God calls on us all to put our faith into action.  Yes, our faith is something that is deeply personal.  But it is also something that should be very public.  God gives us grace not only for our own sake, but to also help others in their conversion towards God’s love and their ultimate salvation.  I’m reminded of the saying, “actions speak louder than words.”  Let us remember that about prayer.  Let us not just pay lip service to God, but actually put into action what we believe.  Prayer is good and necessary, but it is the foundation for good works and not an end in itself.

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Rosary Meditation: The Third Luminous Mystery

Today’s rosary meditation focuses on the Third Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God with a call to conversion. We should remember that Jesus is the Word made Flesh who brought the power and glory of Heaven into this world. However, in order to celebrate in God’s graces we must first approach Jesus with a humble heart open to conversion. By conversion, Jesus asks us to put away our worldly and sinful ways and truly embrace His teachings of goodness and mercy.

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Today’s rosary meditation focuses on the Third Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God with a call to conversion. We should remember that Jesus is the Word made Flesh who brought the power and glory of Heaven into this world.  However, in order to celebrate in God’s graces we must first approach Jesus with a humble heart open to conversion.   By conversion, Jesus asks us to put away our worldly and sinful ways and truly embrace His teachings of goodness and mercy.

Early in His ministry, Jesus proclaimed the Word had been fulfilled through Him.  In a synagogue, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah how “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me.”  He followed up the reading saying how that passage was now fulfilled.  As Christians who already believe in the Jesus’ divinity, this passage reads more as a statement of fact rather than a radical proclamation.  However, this would have been difficult to hear for those gathered in the synagogue at that time.  Instead of accepting Jesus as the Word made Flesh, they chased Him out of town.  This reminds me of the times when God calls me to follow His ways, but instead of accepting God’s call, I reject it.  Often we tell ourselves that what God asks of us doesn’t make any sense, is difficult, or impossible. It is always easier to find excuses and justifications rather than accept God’s Word. After all, the people who chased Jesus out of the temple reasoned that He was just the son of Joseph the carpenter and couldn’t possibly be the Messiah.  We must ask ourselves, how often do we try to reason away God’s Word, transform it, or revise it in order to suit our notions of how to live?

Jesus’ ministry of healing and miracles showed the power and glory of God’s kingdom.  He gave sight to the blind, healed the sick, and restored movement to the paralyzed.  Through his acts people came to believe and follow Him.  Jesus did indeed bring the kingdom of Heaven to the world for wherever He traveled people felt the true presence of God.  But I find it amazing how quickly the people who followed Jesus abandoned Him.  They praised Him one day only to call for His crucifixion the next.  For many, Jesus was just a man who made their lives easier through physical healing.  But when confronted with the difficult reality of following a man who was condemned by the ruling Roman authorities and Jewish leaders, people quickly, as they say in politics, “threw Him under the bus.”  Unfortunately, today we carry on that legacy of human weakness of praising God when life is good and abandoning Him when life becomes difficult.  How often have we become angry with God because something bad happened to us or we didn’t receive an outcome that we expected?  Life is not always easy or fair but those with strong faith know that God is present when we need Him the most.  Those other moments when we abandon God amongst hardship should serve as a reminder on just how much more work we need to do in order to prepare our souls to receive God’s kingdom in our lives.

How do we prepare ourselves to fully receive God’s graces?  Jesus asks us to convert.  There are two aspects to conversion.  First, we need to have a humble spirit.  Too often, we let our pride get in the way of really living as God asks us.  We naively say that God needs to change since we cannot possibly change our lives.  We proclaim that the Church and Her rules need to “get with the times” and be more progressive.  Our pride leads us to believe that our ways are perfect and God’s ways need reformation.  However, it is not God who needs conversion, but us.  As I wrote previously, God’s laws are not subject to a straw poll.  We are the ones who needs to show humility, take a hard look at ourselves, and find those aspects of our lives that need to change.

The other aspect of conversion is reconciliation.  If we really want to receive God’s kingdom we need to wash away our sins through the Sacrament of Confession.  I like the term “washing away” because it implies cleaning something that is dirty.  That “dirt” is sin and by the power of the Holy Spirit we cleanse our souls of all those things that prevent us from fully embracing God.  Very few of us like to live in dirtiness.  We spend huge amounts of time, money, and energy cleaning our clothes, homes, cars, and bodies.  And yet, we do not take the time to clean what is most important — our eternal souls.  The Sacrament of Confession is free and requires very little time and energy.  All it takes is an open heart to truly examine our conscience to make a good confession.  After all, we want to make sure we clean every nook and cranny.

I want to end with a challenge.  Every day ask yourself, “How can I be a better person today than I was yesterday?”  Find those aspects of your life that prevent you from truly embracing God’s kingdom and change them.  Conversion is not a one-shot deal.  It takes time and patience through small steps.  The road of conversion is one of triumphs as well as defeats.  But we’ll never make any progress if our pride prevents us from admitting that we can do better.  The kingdom of God is here with us now and the doors are wide open.  God invites all of us to celebrate in His grace.  The obligation is on us to prepare ourselves in order to fully embrace the power and glory that can only come through God.

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The Fifth Luminous Mystery — The Institution of the Eucharist

This rosary meditation focuses on The Fifth Luminous Mystery — The Institution of the Eucharist. This mystery goes to the core of the Catholic faith; that the bread and wine at Mass actually are TRANSFORMED into the Body and Blood of Christ. For Catholics, the Eucharist is not just a symbol, but is actually the very real presence of Jesus. The consecration of the bread and wine is no different than if Jesus, in human form, came walking through the doors of the church. And yet many of us receive Jesus regularly during Communion without appreciating the enormity of this gift.

The Last Supper

This rosary meditation focuses on The Fifth Luminous Mystery — The Institution of the Eucharist.  This mystery goes to the core of the Catholic faith; that the bread and wine at Mass actually are TRANSFORMED into the Body and Blood of Christ.  For Catholics, the Eucharist is not just a symbol, but is actually the very real presence of Jesus.  The consecration of the bread and wine is no different than if Jesus, in human form, came walking through the doors of the church.  And yet many of us receive Jesus regularly during Communion without appreciating the enormity of this gift.

The consecration requires one of the largest acts of faith of believing Catholics.  After all, it is hard to believe that a small wafer and some wine actually is Jesus Christ.  There are many times when we receive the Eucharist on auto-pilot.  Most of us probably wait in line, look around at other people and enjoy the music as if we were waiting for food in a cafeteria.  But if Jesus, in His human form, walked through the door and spoke to us, He would have our complete attention.  We would be reverent and attentive to everything He said.  And yet, do we show that same reverence to His Body and Blood in the Eucharist?  For most of us, no matter how hard we try, the answer would probably be no.  If we really had even the faintest idea of the true nature of the Eucharist, we would not receive it so casually.

Since the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, we physically embrace Jesus as He becomes part of us and we become part of Him every time we partake in the great, spiritual feast.  We embrace Jesus by becoming sacred vessels of His Body and Blood.  Think of the Eucharist as the fuel that empowers us to do God’s will and face life’s challenges.  Like any living creature, we need energy to survive and flourish.  Without it, we are like a car with an empty tank — unable to do anything or going anywhere.  The Eucharist is spiritual energy that we need in order to continue on the road to Heaven.

How do we become part of Jesus every time we receive Communion?  The word “communion” implies “community.”  When we receive the Eucharist we are coming together as a community of believers in Jesus Christ.  Receiving the Eucharist is an affirmation in our belief and faith in Jesus’ teachings and a public commitment that we will follow His will.  Since the Church is the Lord’s instrument on earth, following Jesus and accepting His will means following the Church and Her teachings.  As a community of believers, we each do our small part in carrying out His will and bringing His peace to the world.

When we pray this mystery, let us reflect and meditate that:

  • We have the faith and belief that we really do receive Jesus Christ through the Eucharist.  Let us show the Eucharist the same reverence and respect that we would show Jesus if He came to us in human form.  May we also rejoice in the great gift of the Eucharist since through it Jesus reveals His presence in our lives.  May we take advantage of the invitation to be part of Jesus’ community.
  • We treat our bodies, minds, and souls as sacred vessels that carry Jesus throughout the world.  Let us not block and mask His presence through the “dirt” of sin.  Let us pray for all of those who cannot see Jesus in their lives or let His light shine fourth due to the “dirtiness” of their souls.  May we always have the faith and courage to seek forgiveness and clean ourselves through Confession.
  • We accept the obligation of being part of the Catholic community when we participate in Communion.  We are all called to be members of His one Church.  We are called to learn, accept, promote, and defend Her teachings.  Let us pray that we have the peace of mind and patience to listen to God either through the Church’s teachers or in the stillness of prayer and do whatever He asks of us.
  • We pray for all those making their first Holy Communion.  My nephew is making his soon (yeah!).  May this serve as an important step in their faith journey as they are introduced to another one of God’s great sacraments.
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The Pope Asks for Meditations on Persecuted Christians

One of my previous rosary meditations was on The Second Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Scourging. I discussed how I see suffering broken down into different groups; one of them being actively-persecuted Christians. Pope Benedict XVI also calls us to mediate on the persecuted Christians in our world. We are called to not only pray for them, but to really contemplate deeply how their experiences mirror the Passion of Jesus Christ. This article discusses how the strength and faith of persecuted Catholics around the world shows us the power of the Holy Spirit that is in all of us.

BookOne of my previous rosary meditations was on The Second Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Scourging.  I discussed how I see suffering broken down into different groups; one of them being actively-persecuted Christians.  Pope Benedict XVI also calls us to meditate on the persecuted Christians in our world.  We are called to not only pray for them, but to really contemplate deeply how their experiences mirror the Passion of Jesus Christ.  This article discusses how the strength and faith of persecuted Catholics around the world shows us the power of the Holy Spirit that is in all of us.

I think it is very easy for people in the Western world, the United States in particular, to overlook that many Christians around the world are persecuted in their countries.  Many of us tend to see persecution as something from a previous era.  The first image that comes to my mind is one of people being fed to lions in an arena while a Roman emperor watches.  Not exactly a modern example now, is it?  Perhaps we may not want to think about persecution and instead focus on happier topics such as our Lord’s resurrection.  Many of us also have no idea what real persecution and suffering is.  For those of us living in relative safety, persecution means receiving an odd look or a condescending comment if you tell someone you are a practicing Catholic.  I personally have a hard time praying for the needs of people around the world who actually face the same threats and challenges as early Christians.  And unfortunately, because I do not actively suffer for my faith, those who do are quickly forgotten during the course of my day.  Sure, I may think about them momentarily during a small prayer, but sometimes their problems just seem too big and it is far easier for me to retreat to Facebook or television.

We cannot turn a blind eye to those who actively suffer because of their faith.  Of course we must keep them in our prayers and help them any way possible (probably by supporting a charitable, relief organization) to relieve or eliminate their suffering.  Charity is always a great way to put our faith into practice.  But we also must remember the persecuted because they are a very real example of following Christ’s path.  Their suffering and faith reminds us just how real and relevant Jesus’ teachings in our lives.  Through their faith in Jesus Christ these people have the strength to overcome their hardships.  By meditating and praying for the persecuted we not only give them the hope and power to overcome their terrible situation, but we also prepare ourselves for the difficult moments in our lives.  If the persecuted Catholics in places like China, India, and the Sudan can find the strength to practice their faith then that should be a sign that ALL of us have that same strength.  The persecuted are evidence that the God did not only come into this world thousands of years ago and then left us to fend for ourselves.  Their perseverance shows that God has always been with us through the very real prescience of the Holy Spirit to give us the guidance and strength to overcome any obstacle this world has to offer.

Let us pray for those who live out the Second Sorrowful Mystery every day.  While we may never know their suffering, they are proof on how strong our faith in God can be.  Let us pray that we let the Holy Spirit penetrate our hearts and minds and guide us through whatever hard times we may encounter.  We know that the world can be a cruel and difficult place, but at the same time we have faith that God will see us through it.  While some events do not go as we wish, let us pray that we truly have faith that God has a plan for all of us that lead us into His Heavenly kingdom.  While it is easy to say that we have faith in God’s divine plan when everything goes smoothly, the real test is to trust in God when life turns difficult.  But if the faith of the persecuted Christians is any indication, we know we can endure whatever challenges the world may bring.

It’s always a good time to visit and shop in the RosaryMeds Store.

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Medjugorje Message: March 18, 2009

My thoughts on the Virgin Mary’s message at Medjugorje on March 18, 2009.

Medjugorje Mary Statue

There is a small village in Bosnia-Hercegovina called Medjugorje.  In that village, the Virgin Mary has been giving messages to six individuals since 1981 through the form of apparitions.  To some, She appears every day while others only receive an apparition once per year.  There is vastly more to the story of Medjugorje than I can explain in this post.  If you like, you can read more at http://www.medjugorje.org.

In addition to my rosary meditations and other spiritual musings, I thought I would start posting Mother Mary’s messages.  While many people are skeptical of the messages coming from Medjugorje, I encourage you to still read them.  Even if you do not think they are authentic, there is still a great deal of spiritual truth behind them.  The messages are great meditations and really make you think about your relationship with God.  So I ask that you read this with an open mind.

Dear children! Today I call you to look into your hearts sincerely and for a long time. What will you see in them? Where is my Son in them and where is the desire to follow me to Him? My children, may this time of renunciation be a time when you will ask yourself: ‘What does my God desire of me personally? What am I to do?’ Pray, fast and have a heart full of mercy. Do not forget your shepherds. Pray that they may not get lost, that they may remain in my Son so as to be good shepherds to their flock.

Our Lady looked at all those present and  added: Again I say to you, if you knew how much I love you, you would cry with happiness. Thank you.

I think this is a wonderful message during the season of Lent.  Mary asks all of us to introspect our hearts and souls and ask ourselves how much room we have made for God in our lives.  Are our hearts only filled with the desire for money, power, social status, and earthly comforts?  Or, are we filled with fear and doubt?  In these uncertain times, have we made any room in our hearts with the faith that Jesus Christ will be with us through any trials we encounter?

Like many of Her other message, Mary calls us to pray and fast.  These are the tools by which God enters and occupies our hearts.  While God is always wanting to be in our lives, we have to make room to let Him into it.  Praying and fasting is a way of doing a little house cleaning of our souls in order to prepare it for God’s graces.  So let is follow Mary’s advice.  We should fast and pray and see what spiritual junk lingers in our hearts that we can let go to make room for God.  Do we keep any grudges toward others that we can let go?  Do we spend every day with a constant anger towards other people or groups?  Do we complain about any unfair circumstances and harbor animosity towards those who seemingly have it easy?  Are our causes just and a reflection of God’s natural law or are they merely shallow justifications to make our lives easier?  Let us take a long look at ourselves and ask, “Have I made room for God today?”

It’s always a good time to visit and shop in the RosaryMeds Store.

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Rosary Meditation: The Second Sorrowful Mystery

My rosary meditation on the Second Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Scourging. I reflect on how, through suffering, we mimic the ways of Jesus Christ.

This week’s rosary meditation focuses on The Second Sorrowful Mystery — The Scourging.  Before being condemning Jesus to death, the Roman authorities brutally whipped Him as was the sentence for various crimes at that time.  While innocent of any wrongdoing, Jesus suffered greatly for preaching God’s truth which undermined any human authority, particularly the Roman’s.  Scourging, like other forms of corporal punishment, helped cement Roman dominion over their territories and deter anyone who dared to speak out against them.

Jesus’ suffering is one of the harder aspects of His ministry to understand.  It is easy to think of Jesus as the great teacher or the miracle worker.  It is much more difficult to picture Him, God made man, as someone battered and bruised like any one of us.  So why does He choose this time of great suffering and hardship to be the most human instead of showing His divine nature?  After all, would not more people come to believe in Him and His way if He miraculously stopped His torturers from harming Him?  Wouldn’t a legion of angels descending from Heaven to defend Jesus turn the most skeptical into believers?

Jesus’ suffering and death mimic His ministry.  While I often wish that Jesus’ message was, “follow me and you will be on easy street for the rest of your life,” I know that He doesn’t let us off that easy.  He did not teach that no harm will ever come to those who believe in Him.  In fact, He taught repeatedly that following His way would be fraught with inconveniences, hardship, and suffering.  It is an unfortunate that our earthly kingdom and God’s kingdom are largely incompatible and you can only live for one of them.  But Jesus repeated that those who kept the faith, despite any suffering, would find their reward in Heaven.  Like His parables, His message through the scourging was that those who endure great hardship by living for His kingdom will be the first to inherit it.

When I think about those who suffer I break them down into three main groups.  There are those who are actively persecuted, suffer, and even face martyrdom for their unrelenting faith in Jesus’ word.  In many places such as Africa, the Middle East, India, and China, being Catholic is incredibly dangerous.  But these people are our greatest example of living Jesus’ way since they face physical suffering and even death because they keep the promise of one day coming into the kingdom of Heaven.  While many of us will never face such extreme hardship we should pray that we can learn from their example of faith and commitment.

The second group is lot larger, but I fear that its membership numbers are dwindling.  These are the people who suffer small hardships in their daily lives in order to live their Catholic faith.  These hardships include small sacrifices such as not eating meet on Fridays, taking time out for Mass, and fasting.  However, in more extreme cases they risk losing friends, quitting jobs, or moving away because they find themselves in situations that are in direct opposition to their faith.  While I would like to say that giving to charity and praying should always be moments of great comfort and happiness, in reality those can be times of small difficulty and hardship.  Sometimes turning off the television to pray or putting some more money in the collection basket at church are incredible challenges.  After all, those who do not live by any faith do not have these obligations and can watch as much television as they want or spend their money on themselves.  But we should pray that we live the truth of Jesus Christ always despite the perceived hardships it puts on us.  We must remain strong to His message despite the increasing volume of society’s message that faith in God is not important and is just silly superstition.

I fear this last group grows by leaps and bounds daily.  These are the people who suffer because they have lost their faith.  They suffer because they make bad decisions that, while marketed as making life better, actually make their lives worse.  Sure, many of them have nice homes, plenty of money, and fancy clothes.  While they laugh at the rules and regulations of organized religion and seem to be perfectly content with life, they are often the most unhappy.  Basically, the message of a better world to come is drowned out by the message of “do whatever you want whenever you want.”  You only have to look at their faces or hear the anger or despair in their voices to know that their lifestyle has only brought them nothing but anguish and misery.  And because sometimes our pride is greater than our faith, we do not admit that our decisions are wrong, ask Jesus for forgiveness, and try to find the correct path of His truth.  For obvious reasons, these people need the most prayers.  Let us pray that they find the courage towards taking that first step in reconnecting to their faith and filling that void with Jesus’ love instead of easy choices and material possessions.

Let us remember that life involves suffering in some way or another.  Jesus did not come into this world to eliminate suffering as seen in His own suffering through His scourging.  We should pray that we gather the strength to follow Jesus’ example whether that means enduring life’s small hardships of living the faith or reconnecting with the Church after following a more worldly path.  Remember, we do not suffer alone but are called to a life where we share these burdens together along with Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, and the saints and angels.  Have no fear; you have a great support group!

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Rosary Meditation: The First Glorious Mystery

This week’s rosary meditation centers around the First Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Resurrection.  After Jesus’ death on the Cross, the Roman and Jewish authorities thought that they had taken care of that “troublemaker.”  However, despite His death, the solid rock walls of the tomb, the large boulder sealing the entrance, and the guards, nothing of this world could silence the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Jesus rose from the dead showing us that our earthly death is not the end of our existence.  We are more than just physical beings in that we have eternal souls.  Jesus calls everyone to a new life with Him for all eternity.  We should all remember that our lives here on earth are only temporary.  What’s a few decades on this planet compared to the infinity of the next life?  I’m not saying that our earthly lives are unimportant.  We must make the most of what God has given us and live to the best of our abilities.  But we should remember that there is more to our existence than what we can see and hear.

If we are eternal beings, why do so many of us live as if our entire existence is bound to this world?  The news is filled with accounts of people trying to accumulate as much wealth and power as they possibly can regardless of the effects.  We live in a culture where people live only for the moment without regard for the consequences in this life, let alone the next one.  We continually commit all the oldest sins in the book (lie, cheat, steal, lust, greed, anger, envy, etc.) as if they were virtues because we have this misguided notion that as long as no one finds out, we did not do anything wrong.  As humans our faith is inherently weak.  We hear that there is more to our existence than this world.  We might even say we believe it.  We proclaim it every time we pray The Creed.  And yet, we frequently do not have enough faith in those words to put away our sinful ways and fully embrace the life of grace to which Jesus calls us.

A priest on ETWN once told a parable that I think communicates this mystery’s message quite well.  He likened this world to a giant land bridge.  The bridge is so long and wide that it appears more like a continent than a crossing.  We hear that at the end of the bridge there is a place more glorious than whatever we can imagine.  And yet, so many people, not believing what lies ahead, build their entire kingdom on the bridge.  They believe their castles and treasures are all they need and they ridicule those who do not built their own castles but continue on their journey.  The kings shout, “Don’t you know there is nothing on the other end?  Why don’t you build yourself a castle and gather as many riches as you can?”  However, one day the oceans rose and submerged the land bridge taking all the castles with it.  The travelers, always packing lightly and moving with haste, made it to the other side safely while the kings drowned trying to hold on to as much treasure as possible.

The moral of the story is that those who only live for this world (the bridge) might not make it to the other side (Heaven).  It is those who remember that bridges are not permanent and always make their focus the “other side” who will make it into Christ’s kingdom.  So, are you a king or a traveler?  How many times are you like the kings and do not believe that there is more than what you can see, hear, and touch?  How many times do you live only for this world despite the calling that Jesus desperately wants you to live for His kingdom in Heaven?  He rose to a new life much like we will rise to a new life after our earthly death.  The question is, will you be so bound by the treasures of this world that you did not make room in your heart for the treasures of Heaven?

This mystery makes clear that Jesus conquered sin and death, rose to new life, and He calls us to a new life with Him.  He gives hope to everyone who tries to live honestly and faithfully despite the hardship it causes in a world that values immediate gratification.  Those who are truly faithful realize that there is nothing that can be gained here on earth that remotely matches what can be gained in Heaven.  We should pray that we gather the strength to live for Jesus’ kingdom in Heaven despite all the temptations that bombard us to live only for this world.  We must also pray for those who live only for this world and do not have the faith that a much better life lies ahead.

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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 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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Rosary Meditation: The Second Luminous Mystery

Miracle at Cana
Image by Loci Lenar via Flickr

Today’s rosary meditation is the second Luminous Mystery — The Miracle at the Wedding at Cana.  At a wedding party, Jesus turned water into wine in His first public miracle.  This started his ministry of healing the sick, giving site to the blind, and mobility to the paralyzed.  There are two main threads that are common to all the Gospels and they are Jesus’ miracles and parables.  Why are Jesus’ miracles so critical to his ministry?  And, if He could perform all these miraculous deeds, why did He not eliminate everyone’s problems and hardships instantly?  Why do we still have sick, blind, and paralyzed people today if it is so easy for the Lord to heal someone?

In order for Jesus’ miracles to have any meaning you must understand the reason behind them.  They are not performed for the sole purpose of making peoples’ lives easier.  We cannot reduce Jesus to a mere genie who will grant us all our wishes.  They are performed in order to increase our faith and open us up to His word.  When Jesus gives sight to the blind He does a lot more than just heal one person.  The miraculous act is a sign of His divinity and power so that many more will come to recognize him as Christ our king and follow His path.  We are like children where His miracles are a way of getting our attention so that we will be more receptive to His message.  The miracles are not only for the one who is healed, but also for those who witness them so that our doubt will be transformed into unquestioning faithfulness.

However, Jesus’ asks a lot of those whom He heals.  They must make a firm commitment to transform their lives, follow Him, live according to His will, and have faith that He will guide them to His heavenly kingdom.  Luke’s Gospel talks of Jesus healing ten leapers.  Of that ten only one came back to thank and praise Him at which point Jesus said that his faith made him well.  The other nine eventually died, as we all do, so their physical healing was only temporary.  But the one who returned to the Lord received more than temporary, physical healing.  He received the gift of faith which is the true purpose of the miracle and more important than any physical healing we receive in this life.  Ask yourself, would you return and thank Him for His wonderful works?  If yes, then ask yourself how many times you have thanked our Lord for the great miracle of a new day?  For the miracle of friends?  For the miracle of family?  Many times we are the nine healed leapers who are given so much and yet we never return to thank the one who provides it all.

Do we pray for miracles for the right reasons?  Do we ask for them in order to grow in our relationship with our Lord or do we ask for them just so that our lives will be made easier?  We must remember that a miracle that only makes our lives easier is worldly and temporary and will eventually fade away and be replaced by different challenges.  Let us remember that God always hears us even when our request for a miracle goes unanswered.  God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that many of our requests only serve to make our present lives easier and would not bring us any closer to Him.  Like a good parent, He knows when to tell us “no.”  Jesus did not come to us to make our lives easier in this world, but rather He came so that we may be with Him for all eternity in our next life.  Let us pray this decade that Jesus’ miracles heal our soul, increase our faith, and lead us closer to His love.

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