Rosary Meditation — The Fourth Glorious Mystery

In the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the holy rosary we meditate and pray on Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. Having accepted God’s plan in the Annunciation, Mary was honored by being assumed, body and soul, into God’s kingdom. However, Her work was far from over as She now takes the role of our guide and spiritual mentor. She is always trying to bring us closer to Her son, Jesus Christ.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

In the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the holy rosary we meditate and pray on Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.  Having accepted God’s plan in the Annunciation, Mary was honored by being assumed, body and soul, into God’s kingdom.  However, Her work was far from over as She now takes the role of our guide and spiritual mentor.  She is always trying to bring us closer to Her son, Jesus Christ.  She has a difficult challenge since She needs to not only fight the forces of evil, but also fight against our own weaknesses to live as one of God’s children.

Mary has appeared to many different people over the centuries and reiterated the ways we can live in God’s grace and ultimately live in His kingdom of Heaven.  Her messages can be narrowed down to five simple behaviors that She wants all of us to do:

  • Pray:  How can you have a meaningful relationship with God unless you talk to Him?  It doesn’t matter whether you recite prayers, meditate, or just have a free-form prayer session.  You need to talk to God and more importantly, listen to what He tells you.
  • Bible: Again, how can you love God if you do not know Him or His Church?  Read the Bible, the Catechism, and the writings of saints and scholars.  Know your faith so that you can live it with every thought, word, and action.
  • Fast: The key is to detach yourself from the bonds of this world and leave room in your soul for God’s grace.  Mary’s messages at Medjugorje always talk about leaving room for Jesus’ love and mercy and fasting makes you more receptive to God’s truth.
  • Confession: You need to free yourself from the bonds of sin by receiving absolution.  Like a shower for your soul, the Sacrament of Confession cleans away the damage sin inflicts on you and strengthens your resolve to remain in a state of grace.
  • Eucharist: You need to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood regularly because it is your spiritual fuel that will give you the strength and resolve to do God’s will.

Mary wants only the best for us.  She wants us to be close to Her son, Jesus Christ.  That is why She was assumed into Heaven so that She can be our guide and protector from evil.  What She asks of us is not terribly difficult.  She asks us to recognize God in our lives through prayer and act according to His Word.  Taking the time to listen to Mary and following Her guidance will lead to something far greater than anything in this world — God’s kingdom.  So, when we pray this mystery we should ask ourselves, “Are we listening to our Heavenly Mother?”

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Rosary Meditation — The First Luminous Mystery

This rosary meditation focuses on The First Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. In this mystery we see Jesus transforming Baptism from being a purely symbolic act of renewal to an actual gift of the Holy Spirit that cleanses our soul of original sin. For this mystery I’m going to focus on the central message of John the Baptist — a call to repentance. While John is usually associated with Baptism (hence his title), his ministry really focuses on the Sacrament of Confession. He preached that we prepare ourselves to fully receive God when we approach Him with a repentant heart. These two sacraments really go hand-in-hand in that they both center around the Holy Spirit cleansing our soul of the effects of sin.

Farmer at the dentist, Johann Liss, c. 1616-17.
Image via Wikipedia

This rosary meditation focuses on The First Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan.  In this mystery we see Jesus transforming Baptism from being a purely symbolic act of renewal to an actual gift of the Holy Spirit that cleanses our soul of original sin.  For this mystery I’m going to focus on the central message of John the Baptist — a call to repentance.  While John is usually associated with Baptism (hence his title), his ministry really focuses on the Sacrament of Confession.  He preached that we prepare ourselves to fully receive God when we approach Him with a repentant heart.  These two sacraments really go hand-in-hand in that they both center around the Holy Spirit cleansing our soul of the effects of sin.

Think about how you take care of your teeth.  You brush and floss daily to keep them clean.  However, every six months you also need to go to a dentist to have your mouth thoroughly inspected and cleaned by a professional.  Seeing your dentist is not a sign of bad oral health.  It’s not like the only people who need to see a dentist are those who do not brush regularly.  Rather, everyone needs regular brushing and checkups or else our teeth will not be their strongest.  Skipping the daily brushing routine or the checkups might lead to premature dentures.

What does this have to do with repentance besides the fact that most people would probably consider a trip to the dentist as some sort of penance?  Like brushing your teeth, prayer must be part of your daily routine to keep your soul healthy.  Regular prayer is your time to reflect on all those ways you have lived God’s will and offer Him thanksgiving.  You also ask for strength and guidance to continue living a spiritually healthy life.  Prayer serves as a little check to prevent sin from entering and decaying your soul.  However, every so often you also need to see a professional to give your soul a thorough scrubbing away of sin.  And that scrubbing is the Sacrament of Confession.

Just like how brushing alone isn’t enough to keep your teeth healthy, individual prayer alone is not enough to keep your soul healthy.  You can’t completely fix the effects of sin with only individual prayer.  There are instances where your soul requires the help of a professional in order to fix the spiritual decay that may be attacking and spreading within you.  You may think that my analogy leads to the priest hearing your confession to be that professional who “fixes” your soul.  However, the priest is merely the assistant.  The real professional, the one who actually cleanses your soul of sin, is God.  God works through the priest to clean your soul and restore it back to a clean and healthy state.

This mystery should remind us of John the Baptist’s message that we should “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mt 3:3).  Let us remember to be thoroughly repentant not just through our private prayers but also by receiving the sacrament of Confession.  That way we clear out souls of everything that blocks us from fully receiving God’s graces.  Instead of seeing confession as some sort of punishment, let us see it for what it really is — a gift.  It is our chance to set things right, fix what is broken in our life, and build a stronger relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ.  May we remember that it is through confession that we return to that pure innocence that we had at our Baptism.  We return to that state of grace that God desires for all of us.  So let us make the effort to go to Confession regularly (the Church says at least once a year) and live as true disciples of Jesus Christ.  And you might want to pop in to see your dentist as well!

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Rosary Meditation: The Fourth Luminous Mystery

This rosary meditation is on the Fourth Luminous Mystery — The Transfiguration. In this mystery, Jesus took his apostles, Peter, John, and James up to a mountain to pray. There His clothes turned dazzling white and Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. Then a voice came from the clouds saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.”

The upper part of the Transfiguration (1520) b...
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This rosary meditation is on the Fourth Luminous Mystery — The Transfiguration.  In this mystery, Jesus took his apostles, Peter, John, and James up to a mountain to pray.  There His clothes turned dazzling white and Moses and Elijah appeared with Him.  Then a voice came from the clouds saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.”

In this mystery, Jesus reveals himself as being God made man.  This instance separates Jesus from the prophets of the Old Testament.  Yes, He performed miracles and preached God’s word, but so did the prophets.  The Old Testament is full of stories of people using the grace of God to perform miracles such as Moses parting the Red Sea.  But in the Transfiguration, Jesus shows that He is no mere prophet following God’s will, but He IS God’s will, God’s word, and God’s truth in human form.  I think this is why Moses and Elijah appeared next to Jesus; as if God was contrasting Himself with the prophets that came before Him.

God, Creator of all that exists and ever will exist, the ultimate truth, our final judge, the alpha and the omega, humbled Himself and came down to earth in a human form so that we may know Him personally.  God desires all of us to live in His grace and love and so He became man through Jesus Christ so that we may better understand His ways.  Our human minds cannot possibly understand God’s infinite complexity and He knows that.  So like an adult trying to explain a complex idea to a child, God revealed Himself in a very simple and direct way — by taking a form which people could see, hear, and touch.

God gave the apostles a very direct command to listen to Jesus.  And yet, after all they had seen and heard, they abandoned Jesus at His crucifixion.  Unfortunately, we continue to imitate the apostles’ behavior whenever we disobey God’s will and sin.  Imagine our arrogance to have received the word of God directly from Jesus and then deliberately disregard it because it conflicts with how we want to live or it seem too difficult.  We say we are followers of Christ, but when it comes time to humble ourselves to God’s will and accept Jesus’ teachings we often tell Him, “thanks, but no thanks.”  In the Transfiguration, God gave us very simple and direct order on how we are to obtain grace and that is to listen to His son, Jesus Christ.  And yet, each one of us can probably think of an instance where we refuse God’s grace through our words, thoughts, or actions.

So let us take a moment to remember the awesome gift God gave us through His son, Jesus Christ.  We should remember the gift of the Catholic Church starting with the first pope, St. Peter, who was there at the Transfiguration and later personally appointed by Jesus to lead His people.  God told us to listen to Jesus which means we should learn what the Church teaches so that we may know Him, follow Him, and love Him.  God gave us a tremendous gift by making Himself more accessible through Jesus.  We should pray for all of those who are wasting this precious gift by not following God’s will.  We must pray for a world that seems to have gone out of its way NOT to listen to God’s message.

God made Himself available to all of us through Jesus Christ.  The question is, do we make ourselves available to God by listening to Him?


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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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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.

Christians believe that Jesus is the mediator ...
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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.
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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