The Gospel for Sunday, March 6, 2011 is from Matthew 4:1-11. In this Gospel, Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days before rejecting Satan’s temptations. Tired, hungry, and physically weak Jesus had the strength to reject evil. Jesus shows this same spiritual endurance during His Passion, especially in the scourging at the pillar which we remember when we pray the Second Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary. May we learn that we too have the strength to endure life’s challenges and that we will find comfort in Heaven after we reject evil in this life.
“Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:11) To me, this is the most interesting verse in this Gospel reading. The fact that angels needed to minster to Jesus after the 40 days in the desert shows just how difficult that ordeal really was. I think many of us have this idea that because Jesus is God made man and performed many miracles that spending 40 fasting must not have been very hard for Him. With that mindset we cannot relate with how Jesus faced life’s challenges and think it is unfair that He asks so much of us. After all, how are we to imitate Jesus without the advantage of being superhuman? But since angels needed to comfort Him shows us that certain aspects of life were no easier for Jesus than they are for the rest of us.
Like the challenges Jesus faced in His 40 days in the desert, the Second Sorrowful Mystery shows us the great hardship Jesus endured during The Passion. Jesus felt pain and suffering when scourged at the pillar as any of us would. But His faith in God gave Him the strength to persevere that torment. Likewise, our faith tells us that we have the same strength to endure hardship in this life. We have every opportunity to imitate Jesus by remaining faithful despite life’s challenges. As much as we would like to be spared hardship in this life, chances are that our physical and spiritual limits will be tested at some point whether that be illness, a tragic accident, or a crisis of faith. But this rosary mystery shows us that we all have the God-given ability to overcome any challenge and endure any hardship as Jesus did during His scourging.
May we remember that, like Jesus after His 40 days in the desert and all the pain and suffering He encountered in The Sorrowful Mysteries, we too will find joy and comfort in Heaven. In fact, the comfort that Jesus offers us will so dwarf our earthly suffering that it will make the worst times in our life feel like a momentary itch. But we also must remember that this consolation only comes to those who live according to God’s will. Remember, the angels ministered to Jesus only after He rejected the temptations of the devil. Likewise, we will find true joy and happiness once we reject Satan’s false promises and evils in this world. Especially in this season of Lent, as we prepare for Easter through fasting and prayer, may we remember that God gave us the gift to overcome any challenge this world has to offer. Let us remember to use this gift when we face difficult challenges in our lives.
One of my previous rosary meditations was on The Second Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Scourging. I discussed how I see suffering broken down into different groups; one of them being actively-persecuted Christians. Pope Benedict XVI also calls us to mediate on the persecuted Christians in our world. We are called to not only pray for them, but to really contemplate deeply how their experiences mirror the Passion of Jesus Christ. This article discusses how the strength and faith of persecuted Catholics around the world shows us the power of the Holy Spirit that is in all of us.
One of my previous rosary meditations was on The Second Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Scourging. I discussed how I see suffering broken down into different groups; one of them being actively-persecuted Christians. Pope Benedict XVI also calls us to meditate on the persecuted Christians in our world. We are called to not only pray for them, but to really contemplate deeply how their experiences mirror the Passion of Jesus Christ. This article discusses how the strength and faith of persecuted Catholics around the world shows us the power of the Holy Spirit that is in all of us.
I think it is very easy for people in the Western world, the United States in particular, to overlook that many Christians around the world are persecuted in their countries. Many of us tend to see persecution as something from a previous era. The first image that comes to my mind is one of people being fed to lions in an arena while a Roman emperor watches. Not exactly a modern example now, is it? Perhaps we may not want to think about persecution and instead focus on happier topics such as our Lord’s resurrection. Many of us also have no idea what real persecution and suffering is. For those of us living in relative safety, persecution means receiving an odd look or a condescending comment if you tell someone you are a practicing Catholic. I personally have a hard time praying for the needs of people around the world who actually face the same threats and challenges as early Christians. And unfortunately, because I do not actively suffer for my faith, those who do are quickly forgotten during the course of my day. Sure, I may think about them momentarily during a small prayer, but sometimes their problems just seem too big and it is far easier for me to retreat to Facebook or television.
We cannot turn a blind eye to those who actively suffer because of their faith. Of course we must keep them in our prayers and help them any way possible (probably by supporting a charitable, relief organization) to relieve or eliminate their suffering. Charity is always a great way to put our faith into practice. But we also must remember the persecuted because they are a very real example of following Christ’s path. Their suffering and faith reminds us just how real and relevant Jesus’ teachings in our lives. Through their faith in Jesus Christ these people have the strength to overcome their hardships. By meditating and praying for the persecuted we not only give them the hope and power to overcome their terrible situation, but we also prepare ourselves for the difficult moments in our lives. If the persecuted Catholics in places like China, India, and the Sudan can find the strength to practice their faith then that should be a sign that ALL of us have that same strength. The persecuted are evidence that the God did not only come into this world thousands of years ago and then left us to fend for ourselves. Their perseverance shows that God has always been with us through the very real prescience of the Holy Spirit to give us the guidance and strength to overcome any obstacle this world has to offer.
Let us pray for those who live out the Second Sorrowful Mystery every day. While we may never know their suffering, they are proof on how strong our faith in God can be. Let us pray that we let the Holy Spirit penetrate our hearts and minds and guide us through whatever hard times we may encounter. We know that the world can be a cruel and difficult place, but at the same time we have faith that God will see us through it. While some events do not go as we wish, let us pray that we truly have faith that God has a plan for all of us that lead us into His Heavenly kingdom. While it is easy to say that we have faith in God’s divine plan when everything goes smoothly, the real test is to trust in God when life turns difficult. But if the faith of the persecuted Christians is any indication, we know we can endure whatever challenges the world may bring.