Loving God is an Obligation, Not Optional

The Thing about Volunteers

I volunteer for my local AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) chapter as the coach administrator. I’m already ramping up for the upcoming fall season. As usual, we have way more kids and teams than we have coach volunteers. That means we have to plead with people to coach a team. Thankfully, we can usually guilt trip enough people into coaching.

All AYSO coaches need to undergo training. They need to obtain a coach’s license, pass background checks, and take all sorts of training to ensure the children’s safety. I often get some pushback from those people we ask to volunteer late in the registration process. Their thinking goes, “you asked me to volunteer and now you’re pestering me about completing training? You should be grateful that I stepped in when no one else would. Now leave me alone to coach my team how I see fit.”

“I’m here aren’t I? What more do you want from a volunteer?”

I understand the frustration. After all, coaching any youth sport is a big commitment. And some people didn’t expect that commitment when they signed up their child to play. They were expecting to show up on Saturdays with their cup of coffee, chat with other parents, and cheer their child. Because they feel coerced into coaching, they think their certification process should be easier than the coaches that really wanted to volunteer.

The Thing about Catholics

I see something similar to the reluctant coach with how we often approach practicing our faith. We can feel like we are doing God a favor by going to Mass, a parish event, or even saying some prayers. Because we give God some of our precious time, He in turn shouldn’t bother us with difficult Church teachings on sin and Hell. We want the pastor to just tell us how Jesus loves us no matter what we do so we can go on acting however we like.

“I’m here, aren’t I? What more do you want God?”

Many people no longer see their faith as an important piece of their lives. Instead, faith is something optional like a gym membership. Your parish is something you can utilize as much or as little as you like. If it’s considered optional, there’s no commitment or challenge. When we encounter a teaching we disagree with, we pack up and take our business elsewhere. We love our parish and our faith when it confirms our ways. But when our faith requires change and even some sacrifice, we complain about how the Church isn’t “inclusive” and is being mean.

Pride and the Rosary’s Solution to it

We commit the sin of pride when we feel that God should change to conform to our worldview instead of us changing our worldview to confirm to His truth. Instead of us honoring God, we want God to honor us whenever we grace Him with our attention. Many times, we want God to give us a heavenly discount because we did something the Church instructs us to do. The age of participation trophies seems to have spread to how we interact with God.

Now, it’s okay to have doubts and questions about our faith. But we need to show the maturity to seek answers when we have doubts instead of dismissing God and His Church when He challenges us to live as the people He designed us to be. When we realize that our faith is an obligation, not optional, we’ll be more inclined to look for those answers.

When it comes to our obligation to practice our faith, we can meditate on the Second Joyful Mystery — The Visitation. The fruit of this mystery is love of neighbor. It’s a good mystery for breaking out of a self-centered worldview by acknowledging that we are connected to others. We are ultimately connected to God, our supreme neighbor if you will. We have an obligation to love and follow Him even when it’s difficult. That’s where Mary and the Rosary come in. When we meditate on the Rosary mysteries, we ask her for the strength to honor God by faithfully following Him.

Faith is a Routine, not a “Quick Fix”

As I move into summer, I often think about how my daily routines change. My kids are out of school, so we don’t have to scramble in the morning getting ready. I don’t have to pick them up in the afternoon. We don’t have after-school activities and homework to deal with. I also don’t have the house to myself to do my work. All these changes got me thinking about routines in general and what it means to have a healthy, spiritual routine.

Healthy Routines

Most people understand the benefits of healthy routines. The results from a routine are often greater than the individual benefit of each part. When you feel physically healthy, you usually can’t pinpoint the exact cause of it. It’s not due to a specific workout, diet, night’s sleep, or vitamin. It’s the combination of those healthy activities that produce an overall desired result.

I think the same thing can be said about feeling spiritually healthy. It’s not a specific devotion that will put you at ease and feel some sort of existential joy. Rarely, does someone come out of a Mass feeling completely transformed. I don’t look back at my evening prayers and think, “wow, that totally changed my life!” It’s the combination of praying the Rosary daily, reading theological books, going through the Bible in a Year, attending Mass, and participating in the parish which gives me a sense of spiritual joy and moral direction.

The Lie of “That One Thing”

Too often, we either look for that “silver bullet” or dismiss a practice because of a single lackluster experience. We are always on the lookout for that one thing that we think will make us happy. Our consumer culture banks on that desire that this one specific product will make you happy. Politicians do it too. They promise that if you support them, you will get the life you desire. But as many successful people will tell you, happiness isn’t found in one easy step. It usually takes hard work and patience to obtain worthwhile goals.

On the flip side, we often give up good habits because they are hard, or we have a single bad experience. Many people stop going to Mass when they hear a homily that doesn’t confirm their vices or non-Catholic beliefs. Instead of working to understand Catholic teaching and try hard to live up to it, it’s easier to quit and blame the priest for saying something “mean.” Or they give up praying the Rosary or reading the Bible after a few attempts because they didn’t immediately feel any different.

What Makes a Successful Routine?

Those who are successful stick with good habits even when they are challenging or don’t seem beneficial at a particular moment. There is plenty of evidence that exercise, sleep, and diet lead to better overall physical health. But you can’t give up on them just because you don’t feel completely changed after a single workout or good night’s sleep. The same goes for our spiritual health. It takes time for those healthy practices to transform you. But we have plenty of evidence from the saints and maybe people in our own lives that these habits do work when you stick with them.

In my life, I can’t point to a specific Bible verse, book paragraph, Rosary decade, or homily to explain why I keep trying to live the Catholic faith. That’s like trying to find the specific vegetable I ate or the particular pushup that made me feel good one day. It’s the combination of those Bible verses, homilies, books, novenas, and Rosary prayers that create that spiritually healthy lifestyle.

My challenge to you is to ask yourself, “Am I living a spiritually healthy life?” Are you investing in your faith every day? Are you praying every day? Are you learning Catholic teachings (from source material, not what some “catholic” commentator proclaims)? If we truly believe that our faith leads to eternal happiness, then are we working towards that goal every day?

The Importance of Humility While in Church

Lenin’s Tomb vs. Catholic Masses

I visited Moscow in 2002. I saw all the typical tourist sites in Red Square and the Kremlin. One popular destination is Lenin’s tomb where you can actually see the crazy revolutionary preserved in a glass coffin. Unlike certain saints whose bodies are uncorrupted, Lenin is preserved artificially and so there probably isn’t much of his real body left. I’m going to talk about my experience visiting Lenin’s tomb and compare that to my typical Sunday Mass.

You have to follow strict guidelines when visiting Lenin’s tomb. You can’t bring any food, drinks, or backpacks. Photography and videos aren’t allowed. There are armed military guards enforcing silence. They will stare you down in a threatening way at the slightest whisper. I’m not sure what would happen if you didn’t follow protocol. The whole environment is set up so that one doesn’t want to find out.

Let us now walk through a first Communion Mass I recently attended. Before the Mass started, people were chatting in the pews. I saw plenty of ripped jeans, T-shirts, and low-cropped tops. People casually walked in with cups of coffee as if they were looking for a table at the local Starbucks. During the Mass, small conversations started up whenever there was enough musical cover to mask the sound. Responses from the congregation were weak and muffled as only a tiny fraction of people knew the proper responses of the Mass. Even grandmothers, who are usually the bastions of holiness, were just as bad as the kids they were supposed to be examples for.

Meeting God’s Expectations

It’s sad that people give the tomb of a revolutionary who caused the death and suffering of millions so much reverence while disrespecting the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. This isn’t a matter of ignorance either. I didn’t visit Lenin’s tomb to honor him. I was a tourist, and his tomb is one of the sites people visit in Moscow. But I still had to follow the rules and guidelines. Similarly, anyone entering a Catholic church, whether practicing or not, should understand that it’s a sacred space and act appropriately.

The casualness we approach Mass is a symptom of the deadliest of sins — pride. It’s us telling God that we are going to do what we feel like, not what he expects. We put ourselves, our fashion, our routines, and our wants before his. We tell him that we won’t humble ourselves to dress and act appropriately in his presence. We are like Satan proclaiming, “I will not serve,” whenever we don’t honor and praise God when we are in his presence.

Bringing Humility to your Parish

I’m probably preaching to the choir about how to dress and act when in the presence of God. Mary has already helped instill a spirit of humility if you regularly pray the Rosary. I’m going to offer this challenge to you. If your parish is too casual in its practices, tell the pastor. Ask him to introduce more reverence into the Mass. I mentioned this to our pastor and now we have a moment of silence before our Masses. We are still far from the reverence and humility that God deserves, but it’s a start.

If you’re concerned about the casualness of your parish, pray and meditate on the Fifth Luminous Mystery — The Institution of the Eucharist. We need to remind ourselves just how precious and sacred a church is. When we see the light of the presence on the altar, we need to remember that Jesus is right there. It’s an awesome opportunity to present all our sorrows, concerns, and thanksgivings to him. We occupy a relatively small sliver of human existence that gets to come before Jesus every time we enter a Catholic church. Pray that you don’t squander that opportunity by talking about sports or the wonderful vacation you have planned.

Don’t Worry, God Knows When You Are Ready

Being the one in Charge

I’m transitioning from coaching soccer to refereeing. In a soccer match, there is the field referee and two assistant referees on the sidelines. Most of the time, I’m an assistant referee watching for offsides and who touched the ball last when it goes out of play. It’s a good way to learn how to officiate because most of the difficult calls are made by the field referee who usually has more experience.

One of these days, I’m going to move into the field referee position which is a terrifying proposition. As an assistant referee, I can rest assured that if I make a mistake, the field referee will just override my call. And while I understand the different types of fouls and laws of the game in the academic sense, it’s hard to recall them while making split-second decisions. It will also be difficult to be that final arbitrator and face the backlash of angry coaches, players, and parents.

“Refereeing is fun” they all said

The Apostles Are Promoted

I think the apostles must have felt the same after Jesus’ Ascension. They were probably comfortable assisting Jesus in his ministry. It was still Jesus’ teaching, healing, and putting himself out there to people’s delight and other’s disdain. Like an assistant referee, they could rest easy knowing that Jesus was going to make the all the hard decisions. Even when Jesus sent them out to minister, the apostles knew that Jesus would still be there when they returned to help resolve any issues that may have arisen.

After the Ascension, the apostles realized that they were no longer assistants but had been promoted to leading and building the Christian Church. And no matter how much they learned from Jesus, they must have felt scared knowing that it was they, not him, who would need to make the decisions on where to take the Church. Remember, this came weeks after Jesus’ Passion which was a low point in their commitment to Jesus. And now they were going to be the ones in charge.

How many times did St. Peter need ask himself “What would Jesus do?”

God Knows We Are Ready

Many times, God calls us before we think we are ready. Any new parent knows that feeling of coming home from the hospital with a newborn realizing they are on their own to nurture this new life. Maybe your job, school, or parish is asking for your commitment to a new project or committee in your already-full schedule. Perhaps God is telling you through prayer that he wants you lead your life in a new direction.

As scary as these new situations may be, we have to remember that it’s all part of God’s divine plan for us. He has a personalized plan for each one of us that puts us on a path towards Heaven. He’s not going to lead us down a path we aren’t ready for. However, it requires great faith (aka: trust in God) to let go of our doubts and fears when God calls us out of our current routine into something different.

This is where faith built on routine prayer comes into play. We need to be prepared if God ever calls us to follow him along a different path. We’ll be more confident and assured if we already have a deep relationship with God because we’ll be following a trusted friend, not a stranger. Like Mary at the Annunciation and the apostles after the Ascension, we may not have all the answers and a clear idea of what God wants from us. But God has a plan and it’s a good one even if we can’t see it.

Sorry for talking about the Ascension a week after we celebrated it. Hopefully, I’ll write a post about Pentecost before Thanksgiving!

We Ignore God at our Own Peril

Large sins often spring from small beginnings. Few of us wake up in the morning intending to sin. I would hope that we strive to lead virtuous lives centered around following God. And yet, there we are every few months in the confessional asking for forgiveness. How can people with such noble intentions fail so often?

David, the Exulted and Fallen King

From the lay person to God’s anointed, we all fall into sin. Let’s look at the Second Book of Samuel in the Old Testament. King David committed adultery with the wife of one of his trusted soldiers and later set up that soldier to be killed in battle. Up to that point, David had been an ideal leader and follower of God. He consulted God on every decision he made. He showed immense faith in God leading the Israelites to victory in battle. He showed mercy towards his enemies like King Saul. How did such a great follower of God’s Will veer so far off path?

When you read the Second Book of Samuel, this story starts with David essentially taking the day off. He stayed at the palace and rested instead of staying with his men in battle. That’s where he saw Basheba bathing and his lust got the better of him. At that moment, David was no better than any other king of his day — using his power and authority to get what he wanted.

David put himself in a situation to sin

There was nothing inherently wrong with David wanting to take a day off from his duties as king and leader of the army. But because he decided to do something other than his duty, David slid into sin. The man who consulted God about everything decided to not only take the day off from work, but also from including God in his day. When David did his will instead of God’s, he committed adultery and murder.

Always Remembering God

It is so important to never stray from practicing our faith. And I’m not just talking about attending Sunday Mass. We need to include God in our day every day. We aren’t called to Christian virtue for one hour a week. It’s a commitment we honor every minute of our lives. When David consulted God, he was a good leader and mighty warrior. When he ignored God, he fell into sin. We are the same — we are strong when we lean on God and weak when we acknowledge no higher authority than ourselves.

How can we include God in our day? After all, many of us are busy with work, school, family, etc. There are many ways:

  1. Pray the Rosary
  2. Read scripture
  3. Read theological books or blogs (but stay away from news and gossip)
  4. Spend some time in church in front of the Blessed Sacrament
  5. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours
  6. Fast
  7. Pray when you wake up and before you go to bed
  8. Pray before and after meals

It comes down to having a God-centered mindset. Feeling stressed or anxious? Ask God for help. Feeling ill? Ask God to see you through it. Concerned about a loved one? Ask God to take care of them. We don’t need to shoulder our day and our challenges alone. When we include God in our day, we are mighty, like David. When we ignore God, we fall into sin, also like David.

Living for God When No One Else Is

Great Science Fiction

I recently completed reading all seven books of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. It is considered one of the pillars of science fiction winning a Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1996. Great science fiction contains elements of truth and reveal universal aspects of human nature. And while the Foundation series takes place in the distant future across galaxies, many of its themes will resonate with readers.

One of the main themes across most of the Foundation novels is the idea that nothing great lasts forever. In many of the books, the golden age of the empire is distant history or, in the earlier novels, is in a state of decay. Many characters notice that the empire grew too large to manage and maintain a high standard of living. One of the characters points out that infrastructure breaks and isn’t fixed. People lie, cheat, and steal because law and order has broken down. After a while, the citizens of the empire just stopped caring about doing what is right and instead try to take for themselves the empire’s dwindling resources.

Our Decaying Society

I think the United States, if not the world, is in a state of decline. Pick any city and you will see decay as governments and citizens no longer care about their neighborhoods or neighbors. As I said in my earlier post, society is growing courser as people turn inward. Civility and civic responsibility seem to be relics of the past. Many people don’t live for the betterment of their neighbors, but instead try to reap as much as they can for themselves no matter how unethical it may be. After all, why should we be held back by morality when no one else is?

The Rosary

We should meditate on the Third Sorrowful Mystery — The Crowning of Thorns. The fruit of this mystery is moral courage. Moral courage is what is lacking in today’s world. It involves deliberation and careful thought, rather than impulsive actions. When faced with doubts or fears about the potential outcomes, individuals exhibit moral courage by standing up for ethical principles. Essentially, moral courage is the willingness to do what is right, even when it’s difficult, risky, or unfashionable.

Jesus showed moral courage at his Passion. He chose what was right, doing God’s Will, even when he reaped no personal benefit from it. He knew that what he was preaching was going to get him into trouble with the Pharisees. But he understood that he had to proclaim the truth and do God’s Will even if it wasn’t popular. Contrast that with Peter who denied he knew Jesus because he was afraid of what people may do to him. In fact, all the apostles (except John) deserted Jesus when it was no longer fashionable to follow him.

We may look at Jesus’ example during the Passion and claim that of course he could be morally courageous. He was God Made Man after all. He knew he was going to rise from the dead. We have to remember that we too have that guaranteed afterlife as well. We won’t come back to this life as Jesus did, but we will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell. The morally courageous person understands that and does the right thing. Because the world may not care what how you act, but God does.

Imitating Jesus

Are we showing moral courage and doing the right thing even when it’s unfashionable or no one cares? Do we resist the temptation to cheat, steal, or bend a few rules because no one is going to punish us in this life? Are we practicing our faith although the people around us are not? We may live in a decaying world. The good news is that we don’t have to live FOR this world. Our gaze should be on God’s Heavenly Kingdom. When we show moral courage, we show that our priority is on living for God instead of following fickle societal trends.

To Win the Culture Wars, We Need to Accept Small Victories

The Abortion Wars

I try to make RosaryMeds relevant to current events. That means occasionally diving into the realm of politics. In this post, I want to talk about the current abortion debate in the United States. I’m going to discuss the difference between morality and political strategy. If you read the Old Testament, particularly the Torah, you will see how God did a bit of political maneuvering to guide the Israelites to a moral good.

Donald Trump was recently asked about whether he would support a national abortion ban. He said that he wouldn’t and instead leave abortion policy and enforcement to the states. This upset many in the pro-life community. A pregnant woman crossing between California and Arizona doesn’t magically change the personhood of the unborn baby. Morally, a national ban on abortion makes sense since something as fundamental as personhood doesn’t change at state borders. However, we have to be cautious using the power of the federal government when it comes to matters of morality.

Why National Bans Are a Bad Idea

A national abortion ban, while morally the correct action, puts the decision at too high a level in government. The United States is supposed to govern at the lowest levels — cities, counties, states, and then the federal government. This structure prevents a small group of people in Washington from enacting one-size-fits-all policies across the country. I’m not in favor of national policies even if they legislate something I agree with such as an abortion ban. That power can easily be used to enact laws that aren’t ethically sound. Think about how long Roe vs. Wade was the law of the land and how difficult it was for states to work around it to save lives.

Just because someone does not support a national abortion ban doesn’t mean he supports abortion. It’s a matter of political strategy. We can’t tear down Constitutional principles to win a battle only to lose the war. Furthermore, as a matter of political strategy, we need to get comfortable with incremental victories at the state levels. If we insist on a total abortion ban and nothing less, the pro-life movement will never get anywhere. While lives will continue to be lost if we settle with a 12-week ban, it’s a step towards that moral ideal.

God’s Incremental Plan

As I read the Bible in a Year, I see cases of God enacting laws that incrementally move towards a moral good. For example, he gave the Israelites laws governing divorce (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). God allows it initially with the Israelites although he doesn’t desire it. God’s Will is later fulfilled by Jesus when he taught that God did not intend for divorce but allowed it because of the hardness of the Israelites’ hearts (see Matthew 19:3-9).

The giver of the Law and the Fulfillment of the Law

We have to remember that the Israelites came out of slavery in Egypt and were surrounded by cultures that treated women and wives as property. God saw that he couldn’t take the Israelites from the only mindset they ever knew to the one he desired for them. He needed to guide them which is why the Torah is filled with 613 laws — they steer the Israelites to the moral good God desires. God doesn’t want divorce and Jesus later clarified that God allowed it as a way for the Jewish people (and hence their Christian descendants) to come to know what is morally good. God, in his infinite wisdom, knows that sometimes he needs to gradually guide us towards that moral good because we may not understand and embrace his Will in its entirety up front.

We need to take God’s example when it comes to fighting these culture wars. God took people who had no concept of his moral Will and introduced laws and Commandments. His Will was later fulfilled by Jesus Christ. And while it would have been nice to skip the generations of suffering from an imperfect law, God knew he was dealing with people with “stiff necks” (Exodus 32:9 and 33:5). We’re also dealing in a culture that isn’t ready to entirely accept what is morally, ethically, and logically good. We have a choice on how move forward. We can either insist on laws that are entirely morally acceptable or steer the culture in the desired direction one law or one state at a time. God chose the latter. Maybe we should follow his lead.

Patience is the Key to a Happy Life

I know this is going to make me sound like that stereotypical “old person” who just complains about “kids these days!” But this is actually a post about the importance of patience and why it’s so important to a meaningful life. It’s a virtue, a fruit of the Rosary, and implied in one of Mary’s Rosary promises.

The Coarsening of Society

I can’t be the only one noticing the “coarsening of society.” People seem to lose all self-control and dignity over the most trivial inconveniences. We’ve all seen people melt down or get abusive over a messed-up food order or a late delivery. What about that driver who is tailgating you, honking, and then passing you at 60 mph in a residential area? Have you ever had someone get angry at you when you were driving and almost hit him although he was the one lazily jaywalking across a busy road? Yeah, people seem to fly off the handle over anything these days.

I said low-fat almond milk, not non-fat soy!

Today, more than ever, we need to exercise patience. We need to exercise it in two ways. First, we need patience to deal with this impatient world. We don’t do ourselves or society any favors returning impatience with more impatience. It also pulls us down into a cycle of unhappiness because we find an excuse to make any occasion an unhappy one. Instead, we need to choose civility and calmness if we are to find happiness in our lives.

More importantly, exercising patience also prepares us for those difficult times in our lives — the BIG things. If we can’t handle that incorrect food order, how are we going to handle that cancer diagnosis, the death of a loved one, or that fight with a spouse? Showing patience in the small things helps build up our resolve and perseverance for the big ones. We have to think of patience like daily exercise — it helps keep us spiritually fit.

Patience as a Virtue

Patience is an important element of faith. That is why it’s one of the seven capital virtues. It allows us to bear suffering without being overwhelmed by sorrow or abandoning virtuous living. It gives us the strength to imitate Christ even when our passions want to lash out over a situation we deem unfair or unwarranted. It’s what keeps us returning to God even when it seems pointless. Patience is intertwined with virtues such as charity, temperance, diligence, and humility.

Patience in the Rosary

The fruit of the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery is patience. Picture Jesus, unfairly condemned to death and constantly falling under the weight of his cross. Jesus didn’t complain or lash out about his situation. He quietly endured it knowing it was what God asked of him. Often, we need to show patience for what God asks of us. God’s plan may not be an easy one, but through the Rosary, we cultivate virtues like patience to see us through challenges on our road to Heaven.

Patience is what allows us to overcome life’s challenges. This is why Mary’s sixth promise to those who pray the Rosary is “Whoever recites my Rosary devoutly reflecting on the mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune.” It’s not that you will avoid misfortune, but you will have virtues such as patience to endure them. Like Jesus carrying his cross, you will endure and ultimately triumph when you embrace the Rosary.

Do yourself and the world a favor, make an effort to exercise patience every day. Maybe that means leaving some criticism of a loved one unsaid. Maybe that means taking a few extra seconds to think before acting. Before lashing out, picture Jesus standing behind you (because he’s always with us). Does a profanity-laced tirade seem like a good idea? I hope not! Pray the Rosary and ask for Mary’s help in cultivating patience in your life. You and everyone around you will be happier as a result.

“It is Finished”

On Good Friday my parish meditates on the last words of Jesus before he died on the cross. There are seven phrases that Jesus proclaimed from the cross. What happens is that a parishioner presents a meditation on each phrase. This year, I’m leading the meditation on “It is finished” (John 19:30). Here it is below. I hope you all have a powerful Triduem and a joyful Easter!

The phrase, “it is finished,” is so short and yet profound.  It marks the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Jesus did not end with a lengthy testimonial or a summary of all that he accomplished or making sure that people understood his teachings.  To those standing at the foot of the cross, these words may have sounded like words of defeat.  That despite his best efforts, the pharases and Romans had won in ridding the world of someone they considered a nuisance.

Instead, Jesus’ words highlight the comfort and peace that comes from doing God’s Will.  By earthly accounts, Jesus did not have much to show for his life.  He made plenty of enemies, was betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends, and died on the cross.  And yet, he found comfort and peace knowing that he did what God asked of him.  His mission was not to reach a certain number of conversions, healings, and miracles.  His ministry was not about keeping score.  It was simply doing God’s Will.  It was about giving all he had in service to God.

We too may sometimes feel like we don’t have much to show for all our efforts.  Each day may feel the same – wake up, work, relax, repeat.  Maybe we have difficulties with our health, family, job, or other situations that make us think, “Why me?”  Or, where’s my reward that’s due to me?  But we need to look at Jesus on the cross.  Did he complain about how unfairly he was treated?  Or did he regret how much more he could have done if given more time?  After all, there were so many more people he could have reached out to and healed and converted.  But no, he had done all that God asked of him and he knew that his mission was finished.

We too need to look at our lives and ask how much of it is given to God and how much of it is given to our wants and desires.  Can we say, “It is finished” with the same amount of peace as Jesus knowing that we faithfully served God and his Church?  Or are we holding something back?  Are we clinging too tightly to our concerns, doubts, and fears as we fight against what God wants of us?  Are we afraid that if we open ourselves to God’s Will, he will lead us to places we don’t want to go?

When I look around at the world today, I see so much anxiety, depression, and unhappiness.  I think much of that has to do with a lack of meaningful purpose.  We can get so caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities that we don’t make time for that higher calling.  In my own life, when I’m feeling overwhelmed or unaccomplished I need to ask myself, “Am I doing God’s Will or trying to fulfill a list of worldly accomplishments?”  Am I too focused on the day-to-day of work, my kids, my family, or my hobbies that I’m not listening to God and what he wants of me?

Doing God’s Will isn’t easy.  No one will say that Jesus led an easy life or a peaceful death.  But he could triumphantly proclaim that his earthly life had reached a satisfying conclusion having done God’s Will.  We tend to make our lives so complicated and we suffer as a result.  Maybe now is a good time to reduce and simplify and ask, “I am doing God’s Will?  Am I placing this day, my fears, my anxieties, and my insecurities into God’s hands?”  Because that’s the only way we will find that peace that Jesus had on the cross.  It’s the only way we will hear, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your master!”

Avoid Sin by Making Temptation Difficult

Playing with Fire

Vice and temptation are omnipresent in today’s world, making it all too simple to succumb to one or the other. Sadly, it often appears that humanity instinctively opts for sin, as it instantly satisfies our desires. However, it requires continuous vigilance and determination to pursue virtue, the more challenging yet ultimately more rewarding path. A recent episode of the Daily Rosary Meditation podcast discussed this topic, highlighting how we frequently “play with fire” by lingering near our temptations.

The segment of the Rosary podcast that resonated with me highlighted the concept that a wise person does not deliberately place themselves in situations ripe for sin and temptation. It’s a common oversight that we can actually take proactive steps to sidestep sin. We don’t need to face temptation daily just to demonstrate our resilience. For those battling addictions, it’s crucial to anticipate and obstruct the ease of giving into those addictions. As mentioned in the podcast, an alcoholic striving to avoid temptation wouldn’t carry a flask of whiskey with them.

Temptation in our Pockets

The smartphone is a burden many of us bear. It opens the door to a myriad of fascinations. Take, for instance, I am composing this post on my phone at this very moment. It’s quite convenient to simply pull out my phone and begin writing whenever inspiration strikes. However, I often catch myself reaching for my phone aimlessly, merely to alleviate boredom and kill time. Even though I don’t engage in anything particularly harmful on my phone, it does distract me from engaging in more meaningful activities.

Many individuals find it challenging to control their social media cravings, which often leads to time squandered. Indeed, it’s pleasant to view photos and celebrate the accomplishments of friends and family. However, the reality is that many people turn to social media to vent, express anger, or exacerbate their anxieties. Social media is paradoxical; we’re aware it doesn’t bring us joy, yet we continue to indulge in it. Even if our actions on social media aren’t inherently wrong, one must wonder if deliberately fostering anxiety or depression is beneficial in any manner.

Rosary to the Rescue

When I think about battling my temptations, I meditate on the Fourth Luminous Mystery — The Transfiguration.  The fruit of this mystery is a desire for holiness.  And that is what we are confronted with every day — choosing what is holy or sinful.  When we pray the Rosary, especially this mystery, we remind ourselves that we have a choice on how we spend our time.  We can choose to make falling into sin more difficult by not indulging our temptations.  We can engage in virtuous activities that lead to increased communion with God. If anything, those activities will put us in a better mood.

As we enter Holy Week and Easter, many of us find that we have some extra time.  We may have time off from school or work.  It is easy to fill that free time with smartphone screens or parties. But try this experiment. Try restricting or eliminating aimless screen time. That may mean (gulp) sitting in silent contemplation for a while.  I encourage you to use this time of Holy Week and Easter to deliberately increase in holiness.  Time spent praying in an empty church or Adoration is time well spent.