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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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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