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
Image by StephYo via Flickr

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 Third Sorrowful Mystery

This rosary meditation focuses on the Third Sorrowful Mystery — The Crowning of Thorns. The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus by dressing Him in royal purple and crowning Him with thorns (Mk. 15:17). They then mocked Him and pretended to pay Him homage (Mk. 15:19). Would the soldiers have acted so cavalier and arrogant if they truly understood who it was they were mocking? While we are not as brazen as those soldiers, we often mock Jesus by giving lip service to our faith. Instead of faithfully following Jesus, we too often dishonor Him by putting the fleeting treasures of this life in front of the treasures waiting for us in Heaven. Particularly in this time of Lent we must make a sincere effort to put Jesus first in our lives and honor Him the way He deserves.

This rosary meditation focuses on the Third Sorrowful Mystery — The Crowning of Thorns.  The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus by dressing Him in royal purple and crowning Him with thorns (Mk. 15:17).  They then mocked Him and pretended to pay Him homage (Mk. 15:19).  Would the soldiers have acted so cavalier and arrogant if they truly understood who it was they were mocking?  While we are not as brazen as those soldiers, we often mock Jesus by giving lip service to our faith.  Instead of faithfully following Jesus, we too often dishonor Him by putting the fleeting treasures of this life in front of the treasures waiting for us in Heaven.  Particularly in this time of Lent we must make a sincere effort to put Jesus first in our lives and honor Him the way He deserves.

We are often very much like the Roman soldiers who pretended to pay Jesus homage.  Sure, we may say that we are good Christians.  We might recite prayers every night and go to Mass every Sunday.  But do we truly believe that Jesus Christ is our king and savior?  Will we follow Him even when times are difficult and our faith runs contrary to society’s norms?  Or is our faith something done in isolation and detached from our “normal” lives?  For example, how many of your beliefs conflict with the Church’s teachings?  Or, when faced with a difficult situation, how often do you tell a “little white lie” or commit some other easy sin to serve your own ends?  Do you go to Confession without intending to truly turn away from your sins and live with a converted heart?  There are so many ways where we pretend to follow Jesus but our actions tell a different story.  And while our transgressions may seem small and inconsequential, they are like the little thorns on the crown we offer to Jesus.  When meditating upon this mystery think about how sincerely you praise and honor Jesus.  Do you practice and live the faith you profess or are you like the Roman soldiers who only pretended to honor Jesus?

For whose kingdom are you living?  We too often live for this worldly kingdom and not for Jesus’ kingdom of Heaven.  There are so many things that compete for our attention — money, power, possessions, and lust just to name a few.  But we must remember this verse from the Gospel of Matthew (6:24):

No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.

But how we try. However, as the verse says, by trying to serve two masters we often end up serving only one.  Since money and possessions are physical, quantifiable things it is often easier to live for them than it is to live for our treasures in Heaven.  After all, we only have it on faith that the riches of Heaven will far outweigh anything made in this world.  But since our eternal reward isn’t something advertised during the Super Bowl by a fancy advertising agency, we too often kick it aside for the things that we can see, hear, and touch.

Ask yourself in this time of Lent, what master are you serving?  What type of crown do you offer Jesus Christ?

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Lent — Winning Spiritual Gold

We are entering a very special time of the year. People all around the globe will come together and really show the extent of the human spirit. People from different countries, languages, and cultures will be united for a few weeks with a common purpose. It will be difficult and require many sacrifices. But in the end, some people will rise up and find a strength they never knew they had and emerge triumphant. Are you ready for… Lent?

Nancy Johnson with her Olympic gold medal
Image via Wikipedia

We are entering a very special time of the year.  People all around the globe will come together and really show the extent of the human spirit.  People from different countries, languages, and cultures will be united for a few weeks with a common purpose.  It will be difficult and require many sacrifices.  But in the end, some people will rise up and find a strength they never knew they had and emerge triumphant.  Are you ready for… the Olympics Lent?

Much like the Olympic games, Lent and Easter are not ordinary times of the year.  It is a special time where we set aside our usual routine and really focus on becoming stronger in our faith.  It is a time to really push ourselves spiritually so that we may win that eternal “gold medal” — God’s grace and a place in His heavenly kingdom.  Athletes train for years in preparation for the Olympics.  Similarly, we must train and build our spiritual muscles in order to get the most out of this holy season.  Similar to last year’s Lenten article, here are some things you can do to earn that “Lenten Gold”

  • Fast: This can be the toughest form of meditation and prayer.  Fast by consuming only one full meal during the day (two smaller meals are allowed to maintain strength).  While most people are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, become a Lenten Olympian by fasting more often.  Try fasting once or twice a week during Lent.  Not ready for that gold medal?  Just try skipping desserts and avoiding snacks.  God sees every small sacrifice.
  • Pray: Allow extra time for prayer.  Wake up five minutes earlier and spend that time in silent meditation.  Remain conscious of Lent by praying throughout the day.  Leaving work?  Coming back from lunch?  Running an errand?  Say a small prayer at any of these times as a reminder of your faith.  Want to go for the gold?  Check with your parish for Stations of the Cross, Adoration, and other Lenten events.
  • Sacrifice:  In the Olympics, earning your place on the podium takes hard work and sacrifice.  You have to constantly adhere to a strict training regiment and never “slack off” or become lazy.  Likewise, making the most of Lent requires making sacrifices.  Give up something difficult like watching television or browsing the internet.  Give up snacking.  Give up alcohol.  Replace your “guilty little pleasures” with prayer and build those spiritual muscles.
  • Know the Rules:  Olympic athletes need to understand the rules of their sport in order to win.  Skiers must know the twists and turns of a hill so that they can stay on the best path and achieve a winning time.  Hockey players need to know what actions result in a penalty and avoid making them.  How do you expect to be a Lenten superstar if you do not understand the rules of the game?  Read Bible passages.  Read a few pages of the Catechism every night.  Learn apologetics.  If you are feeling really ambitious, read one of the Holy Father’s encyclicals.  Knowing your faith will keep you on that winning path.
  • Confession: Even Olympic athletes have bad days.  Sometimes a ski jumper gets out of position and doesn’t get as much distance as he should.  Sometimes a figure skater falls while trying to land after a difficult leap.  But what do they all do?  They get back up, learn from their mistakes, move on, and try to do better the next time.  To be a Lenten athlete we also need to learn from our mistakes, get up, and move on.  Go to Confession.  Purge yourself of your sins, listen to the priest giving you absolution, do your penance, and move on and live in God’s graces.  Want to go for the gold?  Try to convince a loved one who hasn’t received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a long time to go during Lent.
  • Have a Plan: Olympic athletes set goals.  Skiers have a target time they have to beat in order to win a medal.  Figure skaters have a list of moves they need to complete in their routines.  They just don’t go out there without a strategy and hope that it all comes together.  Likewise, have a plan for Lent.  Make a list of all the spiritual goals you want to accomplish before Easter.  Start now and continually add to the list as you think of new ways to make this Lent an extra special time of prayer.

The holiest time of the year begins in a few days.  Are you prepared?  Are you ready to win that spiritual gold medal?  Please share in the comments any other ways we can all become Lenten superstars.

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What’s Your Prayer Score?

I discuss how you can improve your prayer life by measuring how often your pray and do other spirit-building activities.

I recently acquired a Garmin Nuvi 265wt GPS unit.  Along with the usual GPS features, this one includes something called an “EcoScore.”  This is your “economy score.”  The GPS monitors your speed and how smoothly the car starts and stops.   It rates your driving on a scale of 0-100.  The better you drive (no jack rabbit starts and stops, not spending time idle, not driving at excessive speeds, etc.), the higher your score.  This feature turns my daily commute into a little game where I’m trying to change my driving habits to reach a higher score.  Unfortunately I have not broken the 80 barrier for my average EcoScore on my daily commute.  I’m hoping that one of these days, if I can catch a lot of green lights, I will hit an 85 average score.

So what does this new, shiny gadget have to do with your prayer life?  OK, I would be lying if I didn’t put that into my post to brag about my new GPS device a little.  But it got me thinking about how much more effort I put into various tasks when I know I’m being measured or rated in some way.  I play hard in sports because I want to win.  I work out hard at the gym because I want to keep a trim waistline or be able to do more push ups over time.  I’m focused at work in order to get projects done ahead of schedule.  In general, competition makes people perform at their best.

I think part of the reason why many people are turning away from their faith and prayer is because they do not rate their prayer life.  Because they do not see some sort of tangible, measurable result from their prayers they turn to activities where they can see more visible results (like the accumulation of money or possessions).  I think that if people started rating their prayer life the same way they measure their bank accounts you would see a run on rosaries.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am in no way comparing prayer and faith to sports and work.  I don’t want to trivialize prayer by turning it into a competition with others.  Just to put things in the proper perspective, on a scale of 1-100 I bet most of us are a two or three at best when compared to the example set by Jesus.

Instead of prayer being a competition with others, I want to challenge you to make prayer a competition with yourself.  Ask yourself, how often do you pray earnestly?  How often do you go to church, pray the rosary, attend adoration, and go to confession?  Do you contribute time and/or money to charity?  I’m sure no matter where you are in your faith journey, there are ways you can improve.  Especially during Lent, we should rate our prayer life and compare that to where we want to be.  Let us look to the Lord and the Catholic Church as our coach in this competition.

Here are a few things to get you started on rating your spiritual life.  Remember, this is used to measure your current habits against where you want to be, not measure yourself against others.  If you are rating yourself against others you might as well knock off some points for pride.  Look at this list, or create your own, and see if you can improve each week.  It’s time to evaluate your Prayer Score!

  • Go to Sunday Mass: +1
  • Go to Mass on a weekday: +2
  • Pray the rosary: +2
  • Go to confession: +5 (+10 if it has been more than five years since your last confession)
  • Go to adoration: +5 (+20 if you stay all night)
  • Fast for a day: +4 (+7 if you fast on bread and water only)
  • Say grace before each meal: +1
  • Read a chapter in the Bible: +2
  • Donate money to charity: +3
  • Donate time for a charitable cause: +5
  • Learn something from the Catechism: +3
  • Commit a venial sin: -2
  • Commit a mortal sin: -10
  • Do not defend the Church or the faith when others mock it: -5

Good luck!

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Lent: A Time for Spiritual Fitness

Lent is a time to get spiritually fit and our souls in shape for God. I’ve outlined some activities you can do during Lent to prepare your soul for Easter.

The season of Lent is already here.  This means that it is time to prepare our hearts, minds, and souls for Easter.  Think of this as your spiritual equivalent of a New Year’s resolution.  It is time to get our souls in shape so that we can fully embrace our faith and Jesus’ love.

In the Gospels, Jesus spent forty days in the desert before starting His public ministry.  In that time, He prayed and fasted.  But He was also repeatedly tempted by the devil.  In a similar way, Lent poses many temptations and challenges for the modern Catholic.  We live in a world that no longer values self-sacrifice.  The idea that someone would deliberately deny himself something is a very alien concept in a society where you can get anything you want whenever you want.  But the point of fasting, sacrifice, and preparation during Lent is to clear out our hearts and minds of all these material goods and make room for God.  Like a diet, Lent is a time to clear our souls of all that “junk” we accumulate in our daily lives (work, money, politics, wealth, power, etc.) and really focus on our faith and relationship with God.  While it is so easy to treat a day in Lent as just another, normal day, let us really make an effort to make these days extraordinary by taking more time to examine, prepare, clean, and mend our hearts for God.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, prayer is our spiritual exercise. So below I have prepared a Lenten spiritual fitness checklist.  And like any exercise program, I’ve divided it into different levels so you can go at your own pace.  The clock is ticking folks so lets get moving!

Beginner:

  • Give up something you enjoy (chocolate, cookies, coffee, television, video games, etc.).  Whenever you have a craving, fill it by saying a prayer.
  • Arrive early or stay after mass on Sunday and say an extra prayer.
  • Actually sing the hymns and speak up during responses at mass.  Participate!
  • Find an annoying habit or sinful behavior that you do.  Make an earnest effort not to do it.
  • Go to confession at least once.
  • Do not eat meat on Friday.  But that does not mean you should go out and have a lobster dinner either.  Remember, this is a time of sacrifice.
  • Pray daily.

Intermediate:

  • All the beginner tasks.
  • Meditate on a mystery of the of the rosary daily.
  • Read scripture daily.
  • Go to the Stations of the Cross at least once.
  • Go to adoration at least once.
  • Fast once a week.
  • Learn something new about the Catholic faith by reading the Catechism.

Expert:

  • All of the intermediate tasks.
  • Pray all four mysteries of the rosary daily.
  • Fast twice a week.
  • Refrain from having or going to large, boisterous parties.  Instead, use that time to pray.
  • Make plans to meet with your parish priest in a non-religious setting.  Get to know your priest outside of Church.  Remember, they are human beings and like social events too.

And here is a little motivation from the ultimate spiritual fitness guru, Pope Benedict XVI:

Lent, A Time for More Intense Prayer and Penance

Pope Urges Fight To Do Good This Lent

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

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