How the Rosary Teaches Us About Jesus’ Mercy

This Sunday we celebrate The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  The Gospel is from St. Luke:

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The rosary connection is fairly obvious as St. Luke writes about Jesus’ crucifixion which is the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery.  Here we see Jesus’ divine power amidst His human weakness.  Battered and broken, Jesus is minutes away from shedding His humanity by dying on the cross.  But almost like a scale, what Jesus loses through his physical body is counter-balanced by His authority and power in the spiritual realm.  He shows us He is king, not by any earthly standard, but by redeeming us all through suffering and death.

Jesus, on the cross, is mocked in Calvary as t...
Jesus, on the cross, is mocked in Calvary as the King of the Jews, Luke 23:36-37 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is amazing is that Jesus’ kingly authority is so transparent to one criminal and opaque to the other.  One challenges Jesus to save them while the other humbly asks Jesus to simply remember him.  And doesn’t the difference in the two criminals interaction with Jesus remind us of how we often treat Jesus?  One day we humbly ask Him for guidance and protection and other days we are challenging Him to prove Himself by answering our every wish and desire.  Sometimes we treat Jesus as King of Heaven and humbly submit to His will.  And other times we come close to threatening Him if He does not give us what we want.

When you reflect on this Gospel and pray the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary, ask yourself, how much of your life is spent treating Jesus as your king and how much as your servant?  Do you have the strength to look past your immediate circumstances and see that Jesus is willing to offer you something so much better — eternal joy in His Heavenly Kingdom?  Instead of telling Jesus what you want Him to do, do you have the faith to just ask Him to remember you knowing that He will take care of you?

The Church is celebrating the year of mercy.  Consider this.  Both criminals crucified next to Jesus were sinners.  But Jesus showed mercy telling one that he would be with Jesus in paradise that day.  Jesus’ power and mercy are so great, there is no amount or type of sin that it cannot overpower.  All you have to do is humbly ask the Lord to remember you.

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Lent Post Mortem

 

In software engineering it is common to have a post mortem upon completion of a large project.  A post mortem gives the team a chance to identify what went well and what went badly in the course of the project and investigate the root causes.  The idea is to continue doing what is good and avoid making the same mistakes in future projects.  I like to think of Lent as a large spiritual project that deserves its own post mortem.

When I look back at my Lent, here’s what I did right:

  • Received the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Listened to the Gospel nearly everyday
  • Prayed the rosary nearly everyday (okay, that’s not too different from my usual routine)
  • Fasted from alcohol, candy, and snacks during the day

What was less than ideal:

  • Did not attend any extra Masses or prayer services
  • Did not receive ashes on Ash Wednesday
  • While I did not snack during the day, I didn’t exactly show a lot of willpower in the evening.  So my fast was more like a delayed gratification on some days.

What did I learn?

  • Listening to the daily Gospel really fills in the story and teachings of Jesus that you don’t get only listening to the Sunday Gospel.  I started to better understand the buildup to Holy Week and how Jesus drew the ire of the Pharisees which led to his crucifixion.  I will try to continue reading/listening to the Gospel daily.
  • I should try to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often.
  • Since I abstained from snacks and treats on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, I know I can make it the entire day without them.  I should put in more effort to fast from snacks throughout the year, not just on those two days.

Now it’s your turn.  What did you gain during this Lent?  Where did you fall short and do you plan on correcting any errors made during Lent in this Easter season?

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Gospel for February 20, 2011 — Perfection

Christ on the Cross cropped. Crop of old Mass ...
Image via Wikipedia

The Gospel for February 20, 2011 is Matthew 5:38-48 which follows on the heals of the previous Sunday’s Gospel.  Jesus continues expanding the Mosaic law by challenging people to live to a higher standard.  He says we need to “turn the other cheek” when people hurt us and love our enemies.  Jesus exemplifies this high standard in The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary, His Crucifixion, when he asks God to forgive the people who put Him to death.

Jesus’ extensions to the law were tall orders considering the fact that He preached to people who were under Roman occupation and had strict barriers between social groups (Jew, Gentile, Samaritan, etc.).  It was very easy for people at that time to see “the others” as their enemy and seek any retribution when they were harmed.  Jesus asking people to love their enemies must have been a very radical idea and probably was not very well received.  Even today that idea is often preached, but rarely lived.  But Jesus points out that God loves everyone, whether they are Jew or Gentile, and He calls us to do the same.  And if loving your enemy is not difficult enough, Jesus raises the bar even further.  In what almost seems comical, Jesus tells us to “just be perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  Piece of cake right?

There is no better example of Jesus loving those who hated Him and acting perfectly then when He calls on God to forgive the people who crucified Him for “they know not what they do.”  But the problem many of us have when we read this passage is that we know that Jesus is already perfect.  Many of us may hear Jesus’ teaching of love and forgiveness and probably think, “it’s easy for Him to act perfectly, He’s God!”  So how can we relate to the infinite love and forgivness Jesus showed at His crucifixion?  How do we even begin to live perfectly?

Perfection starts with prayer.  We are aided in our quest for perfection with tools like the Bible, the rosary, priests, nuns, and the entire magistrate of the Catholic Church.  Prayer helps us see Jesus as the example of living perfectly that we try to imitate.  The word imitate is important since we can never be perfect as Jesus is perfect.  We will fall into sin from time to time.  We will not always love our enemies.  We will have grudges and hatred towards one another at times.  But just because we do fall does not give us an excuse never to try at all.  We pray the rosary for guidance, we meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries for strength, and we absorb the readings in the Bible all in trying to understand that perfection that God asks of us.  When we fail to live as Jesus desires, we can wipe the slate clean through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and try again.  And when we think we’ve done just about all we can do, thinking of Jesus nailed on the cross and forgiving the people should motivate us that we can try just a little harder.  And even when we do meet some of our moral limitations as human beings, we are at least closer to that perfection than if we had never tried at all.  But the key to living perfectly is that we have to actively try to live perfectly.  We cannot do it by accident.

Spirituality is a lot like athletics.  Coaches ask for perfection from their players.  Baseball coaches want every player to get a hit and never strike out.  In football, no coach wants to see a dropped pass or his quarterback sacked.  But athletes almost never play a perfect game.  But they give a 100% effort trying the best they can.  Just because they know they won’t play perfectly does not mean they do not try at all.  And so, Jesus calls us to be spiritual athletes.  Like a coach, He wants to see us giving a 100% effort in living according to His Will and building a loving relationship with Him.  It’s time to pick up that rosary or that Bible and give it your all.  It’s game time!

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Medjugorje Message — March 25, 2010

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on March 25, 2010: Dear children! Also today I desire to call you all to be strong in prayer and in the moments when trials attack you. Live your Christian vocation in joy and humility and witness to everyone. I am with you and I carry you all before my Son Jesus, and He will be your strength and support. Thank you for having responded to my call.

If Jesus was God, why did he pray to himself?
Image by Zombie Inc. Wholesale zombies for over 20 years via Flickr

Mary‘s message at Medjugorje on March 25, 2010:

Dear children! Also today I desire to call you all to be strong in prayer and in the moments when trials attack you. Live your Christian vocation in joy and humility and witness to everyone. I am with you and I carry you all before my Son Jesus, and He will be your strength and support. Thank you for having responded to my call.

This message ties nicely with many of the Sorrowful Mysteries.  First, Mary asks us to be strong in prayer in times of great difficulty.  This sounds very much like the First Sorrowful Mystery where Jesus prayed to the Father for strength before Judas betrayed Him and handed Him over to the authorities to be crucified.  All too often we tend to move away from God in our trials of life or blame Him when bad things befall us.  But Mary asks us to not only pray in these times, but remain joyful and humble in our faith for all to see.

Mary also talks of “carrying” us before Jesus Christ who will provide us strength and support.  This reminds me of the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery where Jesus took up His cross.  In my meditation on this rosary mystery I discuss how our love of God will help us through the difficult times in our life.  Jesus ultimately overcame the pain and torment of the crucifixion by rising from the dead.  Likewise, Mary reminds us that our faith and love in Jesus Christ will ultimately help us overcome any problems we encounter in this world.  While some will overcome these trials in this life through the intercession of miracles, others may need to be patient as their comfort will come in the next one in the kingdom of Heaven.

Pray on!

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Rosary Meditation — The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery

Today’s rosary meditation focuses on the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus Carries His Cross. This mystery encapsulates many of the Stations of the Cross. We see Jesus take up the cross, fall repeatedly, meet the mourning women, be stripped of his garments, and nailed to the cross. Like the other Sorrowful Mysteries, Jesus carrying His cross teaches us about the nature of suffering and that we are called to love God and do His Will despite any suffering we may encounter in our lives.

Christ fallen while carrying the cross, at St....
Image via Wikipedia

Today’s rosary meditation focuses on the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus Carries His Cross.  This mystery encapsulates many of the Stations of the Cross.  We see Jesus take up the cross, fall repeatedly, meet the mourning women, be stripped of his garments, and nailed to the cross.  Like the other Sorrowful Mysteries, Jesus carrying His cross teaches us about the nature of suffering and that we are called to love God and do His Will despite any suffering we may encounter in our lives.

While carrying the cross, Jesus fell down repeatedly.  His falling is significant since we dedicate three Stations of the Cross to it.  And yet each time Jesus fell He got back up.  But why did Jesus continue to get up and continue suffering at the hands of the Roman soldiers?  He must have known that each time He got up His situation was only going to get worse as He became more tired and beaten and crucifixion was the only thing that awaited Him.  Why didn’t He just give up and die where He lay and avoid the increasing pain and torment?  What pushed Jesus to get back on His feet?

Jesus continued because He understood that the purpose of following God’s Will is not to avoid suffering and find comfort in this life.  Just the opposite, our purpose in life is to follow God’s Will despite the suffering it may bring.  Jesus followed God’s Will out of love for His Father and love for us.  Jesus’ love was greater than the physical pain He felt and that is why He got back up and continued to His crucifixion.  Likewise, God desires us to love Him despite the suffering we may encounter doing so.  We know that part of loving someone is to make sacrifices at times.  And while Jesus taking up His cross is an extreme example of this truth,  this mystery reminds us that we are also called to love God regardless of our earthly situation.

We may think there is a huge difference between the Son of God mustering up the strength to carry on in the face of great suffering versus us finding it in our daily struggles.  It is very common to question God’s plan when “the going gets tough” and we do not get what we want or what we think is fair.  I often come across people on Catholic forums asking, “Why me?”  “Why can’t I find a job?”  “Why can’t I find a good spouse?”  “Why did I get this illness?”  “I pray every day, I go to Mass, I go to Confession, and I don’t commit any mortal sins so why does God make my life so difficult?”  The answer to all these questions lies within this mystery.  Suffering is part of this life while our reward for loving God and doing His Will will be part of the next.  We endure the trials of this life because our faith tells us that we will find comfort and relief in God’s Kingdom.  Unfortunately, this is not the answer many of us want to hear.  We want instant miracles.  We want our problems to disappear.  We would love God to “bail us out” immediately when we pray to Him.  However, we do not see the big picture as God sees it.  What we see as monumental suffering now in this life ultimately amounts to nothing compared to the glory of Heaven that awaits us in the next life.  At the same time, following God’s Will, even in the face of great suffering, will yield tremendous happiness and comforts in Heaven.  And in the end, finding eternal happiness in Heaven is all that really matters, not the momentary suffering and comforts in this world.

We should pray for all those who have “fallen” in life that they find the strength to get back up and follow God’s plan.  We should pray for those who think God has abandoned them when in fact God is right here pushing them to work through their troubles.  We should pray for those who do not follow God’s Will just to reap the comforts of this life at the cost of comforts in the next one.  We should pray for the understanding that we love God most when we follow Him regardless of the earthly consequences.  Finally, we should pray for the faith that all earthly suffering will be relieved when we enter into our true home, God’s kingdom of Heaven.

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Rosary Meditation: The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery

Today’s rosary meditation is The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery — The Crucifixion. After suffering through the scourging, being mocked with a crown of thorns, and carrying a cross, Jesus died alongside two criminals. Jesus’ crucifixion is the ultimate example that we are all called to follow God’s plan even in the face of great difficulty. As imitators of Christ, we cannot ignore or avoid God’s will when we find ourselves in difficult situations.

The Crucifix and Calvary (#109)
Image by Christopher Chan via Flickr

Today’s rosary meditation is The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery — The Crucifixion.  After suffering through the scourging, being mocked with a crown of thorns, and carrying a cross, Jesus died alongside two criminals.  People seeing Jesus on the cross were puzzled because He saved others, but couldn’t save Himself (Matthew 27:42).  They wanted Him to perform one more miracle so that they would believe in Him forgetting all the miracles He had already performed and that His largest miracle, conquering death and opening the gates of Heaven, was yet to come.

I feel that Jesus’ crucifixion is the ultimate example that we are all called to follow God’s plan even in the face of great difficulty.  Jesus, being the son of God, could have easily put an end to His suffering any time He wanted.  And yet, He suffered and died horribly.  Why?  Because Jesus practiced what He preached.  His entire ministry revolved around the principles of sacrifice, redemptive suffering, charity, forgiveness, and having faith in God’s plan for us.  And when the time came for His crucifixion, Jesus did not ignore His teachings in order to save his earthly body.   When Jesus taught that we must “take up our cross” in order to gain salvation, He knew full well those words also applied to Him.  Therefore,  as imitators of Christ, we cannot ignore or avoid God’s will when we find ourselves in difficult situations.

Jesus’ crucifixion, while extreme, highlights a situation we find ourselves in all the time.  How often do we try to ignore God’s plan for us because following it causes difficulty or suffering?  How many times do we feel the urge to tell a little lie in order to avoid punishment?  How much easier is it to drown ourselves in drugs or alcohol when times are difficult?  How much simpler is it to “go with the crowd” and not stick out even when the crowd is not living morally?  But God calls us to have faith in His plan despite our situation.  Jesus loved and forgave those who tortured or abandoned Him on the cross because God’s way is one of unconditional forgiveness.  We often try to make excuses for our shortcomings, but in the end we must understand that we are called to live as Jesus taught us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without exception.   The last time I checked, Jesus did not say “love thy neighbor EXCEPT when he is really, really annoying.”

Let us recall those times in our lives when we did not follow God’s will because it seemed too difficult.  Let us remember when we ignored His plan out of fear of suffering and pray that we can show more resolve in the future.  May we remember that all earthly suffering is temporary and is a minuscule when compared to the infinite joy and happiness of Heaven we gain by following Christ.  It’s true that many people have a much tougher road and a much heavier cross to bear than others.  But we must have faith that God never gives us a larger burden than we can handle.  So we should pray, not only that we have find our innate strength to imitate Jesus’ unconditional love and sacrifice, but that others can find that same God-given, moral fortitude as well.

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