Jesus, the Lost Sheep

The parable of the shepherd looking for his lost sheep relates to the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Catholic rosary. Both center on the idea that Jesus calls us to put him first in our lives despite the challenges it may impose.

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The parable of the shepherd looking for his lost sheep relates to the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Catholic rosary.  Both center on the idea that Jesus calls us to put him first in our lives despite the challenges it may impose.

The Gospel for 9/12/10 is Luke 15:1-10.  When the Pharisees criticized Jesus for welcoming sinners in his presence, he told them the parable of the lost sheep:

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

While Jesus was talking about himself as the Good Shepherd and how he came into this world to help even the lowest sinner, let us try reversing the roles.  Suppose you are the shepherd and Jesus is the lost sheep.  The shepherd set out to find something valuable that he lost.  Like the shepherd, we too are often seeking something valuable in our spiritual lives, namely God‘s grace.  Similarly, the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Catholic rosary tells the story of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus and looking for him in Jerusalem for three days before finding him in the temple.  Both stories include the element of a difficult search whether it be the shepherd braving the elements looking for his sheep or Mary and Joseph’s frustrating three-day search for Jesus.  Throughout the Gospel Jesus preaches about how those who follow him will face challenges and be persecuted and rejected by others.  Jesus’ own life reflects those teachings by his suffering in the Passion and Crucifixion.

It is important to understand that our faith is not always easy and there will be times of difficulty.  Faith often requires taking risks, going into the great unknown, and sometimes encountering “dead ends” and disappointment.  For instance, it is not always easy to pray regularly, avoid sin, and receive the Sacraments.  It is even harder to love God when it seems like our life is falling apart such as losing a job or the death of a loved one.  Often we just don’t want to put in the effort to incorporate Jesus into our lives because it does not seem like we get anything out of it in return.

The Catholic Church teaches us that we will be rewarded with all the comforts of Heaven when we keep Jesus close to our hearts and work hard to come back into his graces if we sin.  But no matter how many times you hear that, the only way you will actually overcome life’s trials and misfortunes is if you actually BELIEVE it.  After all, why should you work so hard for God’s grace if you don’t believe it has any meaningful value?  It is the belief in God’s Kingdom that drives us forward even in the most difficult of times.  Belief, along with the help of the Church, the Holy Spirit, the saints, Mary, and the angels in Heaven will push us through to the glory of God’s internal kingdom.  We can solicit their help either for ourselves or for others who do not have their heart centered on finding Jesus.

When we pray the rosary and especially the Fifth Joyful Mystery, let us ask God for the strength to endure life’s stuggles in our search for Jesus.  We must pray for those who do not put a high value on God’s grace or are having difficulty finding the energy to continue on the road of faith.  Finally, let us pray that we have the awareness to spot those who are struggling and use any extra spiritual energy to help them out and turn them into believers that God’s Kingdom of Heaven is worth the difficult journey.

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Medjugorje Message — April 25, 2010

Dear children! At this time, when in a special way you are praying and seeking my intercession, I call you, little children, to pray so that through your prayers I can help you to have all the more hearts be opened to my messages. Pray for my intentions. I am with you and I intercede before my Son for each of you. Thank you for having responded to my call.

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Can you believe it?  I’m actually posting Mary‘s Medjugorje‘s message on that day She sent it!  Sorry for the long delays between posts but I’ve been very busy lately.  Here’s Mary’s message of April 25, 2010:

Dear children! At this time, when in a special way you are praying and seeking my intercession, I call you, little children, to pray so that through your prayers I can help you to have all the more hearts be opened to my messages. Pray for my intentions. I am with you and I intercede before my Son for each of you. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Her message is simple — ask for Her help (and the aid of the saints) and She will give it to you.  Mary is queen of Heaven and She desires nothing more than seeing you in Jesus‘ graces.  We just have to remember to ask for the right things.  Do you know what they are?  I’ll give you a clue.  It’s not money, wealth, fame, or power.  You see, no one ever got into heaven because they were wealthy.  St. Peter doesn’t ask how large your house was or what position you held in your company before opening the Pearly Gates for you.  None of that matters in the eyes of Jesus.  In fact, many times in the Gospel Jesus tells people how devotion to material wealth hampers you from receiving His graces (think of the story of the rich man).  So let us remember to pray and ask Mary for the right things and the only truly important thing — to be close to Her son, Jesus Christ.

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Medjugorje Message – March 18, 2010

Dear children! Today I call you to love with all your heart and with all your soul. Pray for the gift of love, because when the soul loves it calls my Son to itself. My Son does not refuse those who call Him and who desire to live according to Him. Pray for those who do not comprehend love, who do not understand what it means to love. Pray that God may be their Father and not their Judge. My children, you be my apostles, be my river of love. I need you. Thank you.

Carlo Dolci, 1670
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Mary‘s message at Medjugorje to Mirjana on March 18, 2010:

Dear children! Today I call you to love with all your heart and with all your soul. Pray for the gift of love, because when the soul loves it calls my Son to itself. My Son does not refuse those who call Him and who desire to live according to Him. Pray for those who do not comprehend love, who do not understand what it means to love. Pray that God may be their Father and not their Judge. My children, you be my apostles, be my river of love. I need you. Thank you.

As I’ve said in other posts, we must pray for the “lost souls” in this life who futility try to live without God in their lives.  They are suffering and desperately need our prayers (whether they know it or want to acknowledge it).  I find Mary’s comment about accepting God as your Father rather than your judge particularly interesting.  This statement ties into what I said about in my Second Glorious Mystery rosary meditation.  God desires all of us to be with Him in Heaven and gives us all the tools we need to avoid separating ourselves from His kingdom forever.  We should remember to use the gifts God has given to us through His Church and pray for those who risk a harsh judgement.

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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.

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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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Medjugorje Message — February 25, 2010

Dear children! In this time of grace, when nature also prepares to give the most beautiful colors of the year, I call you, little children, to open your hearts to God the Creator for Him to transform and mould you in His image, so that all the good which has fallen asleep in your hearts may awaken to a new life and a longing towards eternity. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Medjugorje
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Dear children! In this time of grace, when nature also prepares to give the most beautiful colors of the year, I call you, little children, to open your hearts to God the Creator for Him to transform and mould you in His image, so that all the good which has fallen asleep in your hearts may awaken to a new life and a longing towards eternity. Thank you for having responded to my call.

I really like the phrase, “so that all the good which has fallen asleep in your hearts may awaken to new life.”  That pretty much sums up the meaning behind Lent.  It is a time where we do not concentrate so much on what this world has to offer, but what what we have waiting for us in Heaven.  Ask yourself, do you long for Heaven and work towards one day being there?  Or is God’s kingdom an afterthought, an annoyance, or hindrance in your life?  Like I asked in the Third Sorrowful Mystery meditation, “whose kingdom do you serve?”

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Rosary Meditation — The Second Glorious Mystery

This rosary meditation focuses on The Second Glorious Mystery — The Ascension. After rising from the dead in the First Glorious Mystery, Jesus physically ascended into Heaven. We profess this every time we recite the Apostle’s Creed — “On the third day He rose again; He ascended into Heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” We must remember that ultimately we will have to account for our thoughts, words, and actions in front of Jesus who reigns in Heaven. However, the Church gives us tools that allow us to remain close to God and correct our faults before facing our final judgment.

Ascension of Christ
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This rosary meditation focuses on The Second Glorious Mystery — The Ascension.  After rising from the dead in the First Glorious Mystery, Jesus physically ascended into Heaven.  We profess this every time we recite the Apostle’s Creed — “On the third day He rose again;  He ascended into Heaven,  He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”  We must remember that ultimately we will have to account for our thoughts, words, and actions in front of Jesus who reigns in Heaven.  However, the Church gives us tools that allow us to remain close to God and correct our faults before facing our final judgment.

“He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”  Like many people, I find the idea of judgment scary.  The word “judgment” conveys a trial, assessing guilt, and handing out punishment; none of which are very pleasant.  In life, judging has a very negative connotation.  We hear how we shouldn’t be so judgmental.  Even when we are guilty (either legally or morally) many of us try to avoid admitting our faults and accepting the consequences.  Instead we hide, we lie, or play the “blame game.”  Deep down we want to be innocent, sinless, and virtuous but we often miss that mark.  But in professing our inevitable judgment in the Apostle’s Creed we remind ourselves that we need to work at becoming more Christ-like.  Understanding that our actions have consequences motivates us to avoid sin.  And we avoid sin, not just to avoid punishment, but also realizing that sin separates us from Jesus Christ whom we love.

The purpose of knowing of our coming judgment is not to scare or depress us.  In fact, God does not want to punish any of us.  He desires all of us to one day enter into His kingdom.  And He provides tools to help us avoid a harsh judgment.  The most obvious tool He gives us is the Sacrament of Confession.  This is our opportunity to set things straight with the Lord and remain in His grace.  It’s our way of doing small course corrections so that we can remain on the path that ultimately leads us into His kingdom of Heaven.  To put it another way, by routinely confessing our sins we confront our shortcomings while they are still small and manageable.  Without acknowledging our sins those small shortcomings can turn into major problems and separate us from God’s grace not to mention make our lives miserable.

Another tool at our disposal to live in God’s graces is prayer.  When we center our lives around God through prayer, that means we are not centering it around sin.  In other words, earnest prayer can never be sinful so when we live a life of prayer we live without sin (unfortunately, no one has been able to obtain this lofty goal 100% of the time).  The fact that we pray means that we acknowledge that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and hears our prayers.  After all, what would be the point of praying if we did not believe that Jesus hears us and guides us?  When we pray we focus, even if only for a short time, on the Lord and ask for His help, thank Him, and listen to how He calls us to live.  In short, we ask for the strength to live for His kingdom and earn our place that He has prepared for us when he ascended into Heaven.

When we meditate on this mystery, may we remember that our ultimate destination is Heaven.  May we show our love for the Lord by not delaying our arrival in Heaven with a detour in Purgatory.  And may we avoid mortal sin and risk loosing His kingdom entirely.  Remembering our final judgment is not a terrible thing.  Like remembering the consequences of breaking civil laws, we must always be mindful of the natural law that God imprints on our hearts and minds.  Doing so will not only have its benefits in the afterlife, but will also manifest itself as an inner happiness in this life.  Let us also remember to pray for those who are far from God’s graces.  Let us pray for those who do not want to confront their eventual judgment but instead choose to hide, lie, and redirect blame.  Because, as the old saying goes, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

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Medjugorje Message, September 25, 2009

Mary’s message at Medjugorje calls on us to persistently work on conversion and to offer all our joys and sorrows to her Immaculate Heart so that we may find joy in her son, Jesus Christ.

St. James Church in Međugorje.
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Mary’s September 25 message at Medjugorje:

Dear children, with joy, persistently work on your conversion.  Offer all your joys and sorrows to my Immaculate Heart that I may lead you all to my most beloved Son, so that you may find joy in His Heart.  I am with you to instruct you and to lead you towards eternity. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Mary wants us to “persistently work” on our conversion towards Jesus Christ.  This theme of conversion is echoed repeatedly throughout the mysteries of the rosary.  We see it most clearly in the Third Luminous Mystery.  We are called to live for Jesus’ kingdom of Heaven by converting our earthly ways to His heavenly ways.  I like how Mary calls conversion “persistent work” in that our conversion towards Christ isn’t something done in an instant.  Everyone, from the normal person on the street to the Pope has to work constantly on their conversion towards Christ.  Mary adds that not only should we work towards conversion, but we should work with joy since there is no higher goal than living in God’s grace and one day living in His kingdom of Heaven.

The idea of joy is repeated throughout Her message.  She says that we should convert with joy, offer up our joys, and we can find joy in His heart.  At times we don’t always think of our faith with a sense of joy and wonder.  Instead we see its rules, laws, and obligations.  We see it as a burden to go to Mass on Sunday.  We see only the hardship of following the Church’s laws and not being able to do whatever we want.  But we miss the joy of working towards something so much greater than what this world has to offer.

May we listen to our mother, Mary, and persistently work on our conversion to be true followers of Christ.  May we keep our eyes on that eternal goal of the joy of Heaven instead of being consumed entirely by shallow, earthly pursuits.  Mary asks us to orient ourselves towards Jesus Christ.  Ask yourself, which way are you pointing?

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