In Defense of the Pharisees

Leaders of a Defiant People

What comes to mind when you think about the Pharisees in the Bible? Hypocrites? Dogmatic? Unfair? You probably conjure images of Jesus “knocking them down a peg” when he answers their “gotcha” questions. Needless to say, the Christian view of the Pharisees isn’t the most flattering.

But maybe we’re being a little too harsh on the Pharisees. Remember, the Jews had a long history of disobeying God as chronicled throughout the Old Testament. It’s a history of God guiding and providing for them only to have them turn away from Him in sin by following false gods and breaking the Commandments. They were punished by famine, war, and pestilence and ultimately exiled to Babylon and subject to Roman occupation.

I think many of the Pharisees only wanted to avoid God’s further judgement and punishment. That may account for their dogmatic approach to following the Mosiac law. Like a parent enforcing rules, I think the Pharisees felt responsible for protecting the Israelites from incurring punishments. What do parents do when kids repeatedly disobey them? They usually make more rules and enforce them more rigidly. Now imagine a people who had disobeyed God for generations. Think about how rigidly the Pharisees felt like they needed to enforce the law so that their people would “toe the line.”

This is not excusing the Pharisees’ actions and hypocrisy. They did impose rules and burdens that they themselves did not always follow. Or they got so consumed with the letter of law that they forgot about the spirit of the law until Jesus reminded them. Or they got too used to their power and prestige that they forgot that they were foremost teachers of the people. Jesus showed them how they were supposed to be guiding the Jewish people.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

I bring up the Pharisees to show that people aren’t always so easy to label and categorize. We so often label the Pharisees as “bad people.” But that isn’t taking into account the historical and cultural circumstances they found themselves in. We should remember the saying, “Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Before we look at someone and make a judgement about their character, we should take some time to consider their circumstances and maybe try harder to understand their motivations.

Think about Mary in the Annunciation. Imagine how quickly people must have judged her when learning about her unwed pregnancy. And her explanation stretched believability, to say the least. But now extend that idea out to the Israelite people. God led them out of Egypt and through the desert but asked them to show a lot of faith in His plan. What he asked of them wasn’t easy and often seemed impossible. And that disbelief caused many of them to disobey God. How quick they were to judge what God could and could not do. Mary, on the other hand, showed complete faith in God’s plan despite how unorthodox it seemed.

Understand, Don’t Judge

What about you? Are you quick to judge what God is capable of? How much faith do you put in your prayers when you bring your intentions before God? How about how you see others? Maybe we’re too quick to label people based on a Twitter or Facebook comment. Maybe we see how someone is dressed or how they speak and assume certain things about them. Maybe we read about the bad actions of a few people and associate that with an entire group.

Whatever the case may be, let’s ask God for more understanding. We know that God’s ways aren’t always our ways. Before we determine whether a certain event or person is “bad” or “good,” let’s remember that it’s part of God’s divine plan for us. Let’s come before God in prayer and ask him for patience and understanding when confronted with situations we do not understand. We may be surprised how God answers if we listen to Him instead of making judgements based on our limited understanding.

If You Want God, You Have to Put in the Effort

No Effort, No Goals

I coach youth soccer. My team is composed of 6 and 7-year-olds, many of whom this is their first time playing organized sports. Unfortunately, today’s kids don’t spend as much time playing sports as previous generations. The reason this is unfortunate is that they miss out on working hard towards something that is a little outside their comfort zone. The other day, my team didn’t score many goals in our game. However, they also seemed uninterested in playing that day. They sort of wandered around the field without that drive or that passion to play their best. They wanted to score goals and win but didn’t want to put forth the effort to make it a reality.

I think adults can often act the same way when it comes to their spirituality. We want to form a deep connection with God, but we don’t want to put in the work needed. We wonder why it feels like something is missing in our lives and why it seems so unfulfilling. Or we look at the terrible news and get depressed or frustrated with the state of the world. But at the same time, we don’t pray, don’t participate in Mass, or receive the Sacraments. We want God to do something, just as long as that “something” doesn’t require extra effort from us.

Effort Rewarded

Let’s look at two women who exemplify what it means to put in effort in serving God and ultimately being rewarded for that effort. It meant that their earthly lives would be upended. They would face ridicule, sorrow, and a lack of earthly freedoms. They had a choice — would they put their faith in God and make the adjustments and sacrifices necessary to find greater joy and happiness? Or would they choose the easier, worldly path?

The first woman who had a choice to make was Bernadette Soubirous, better known as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. By all accounts, she was just a normal girl from a poor family in France. But she then had an encounter with the Virgin Mary who asked her to return to the grotto where she was appearing and eventually build a chapel there. Whatever plans Bernadette had for her life came to an end when she accepted Our Lady’s requests. She became the subject of ridicule and much scrutiny from church and government authorities. She later entered a convent and died from tuberculosis. Saint Bernadette led a challenging life but she never stopped making an effort to serve God by doing what our Mother Mary asked of her. Like other saints, she put in the effort to form a meaningful relationship with God because she understood the value of doing so.

Full-body relic of Bernadette Soubirous. The photograph was taken at the last exhumation (18 April 1925). The saint died 46 years before the photo was taken; the face and hands are covered with a wax coat.

Think about Mary in the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. On Catholic Exchange, Romano Guardini has this to say about Mary’s decision in the Annunciation:

The lesson of the angel’s message alone should suf­fice for every one of the faithful who reads it aright; it is not the announcement that the divine decree was to be consummated in her, but the question of whether she agreed that it be so. This instant was an abyss before which one’s head reels, because here stood Mary in her freedom facing the very first decision on which all of salvation depended. But what does it mean when the question “Will you help the Savior’s coming?” coincides with the other question, “Will you become a mother?”

Why We Linger on Mary in the Rosary (catholicexchange.com)

I don’t think Mary’s plans included becoming an unwed mother to God. And then after Jesus’ birth, her earthly life wasn’t any easier. It was a life of concern and sorrow that we meditate on when we pray the Seven Sorrows of Mary Rosary. But Mary was ultimately rewarded when she was crowned Queen of Heaven (Fifth Glorious Mystery). She knows the value of doing God’s Will better than any other human. As Queen of Heaven, she is willing to help all of us find that strength to make that effort as she did so that we all may live in the joy of Heaven.

Spirit Willing, Flesh is Weak

When God comes knocking at your door with His plan for you, are you going to reject Him because it is difficult? Has God ever not rewarded those who make the effort to follow Him? If we truly believe that God offers us something 1000x better than anything we could create on our own, why do we have such a hard time committing to Him?

Think about the apostles in the First Sorrowful Mystery. I think we can relate to them. Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray with him and instead they all fell asleep. These are the future leaders of the Catholic Church! And they knew Jesus was the Messiah and yet they still couldn’t muster the effort to pray with him or stand by him when he was arrested. They must have enjoyed being some of the chosen few to journey with Jesus when he was curing people and riling up Pharisees. But when things got tough, they couldn’t follow through. They wanted the honor of being apostles without making the sacrifices.

There’s Still Time

What about us? When God asks us for one hour a week to celebrate Mass, are we too tired or too busy? Do God’s requests interfere with a football, baseball, or soccer match? Are we like the apostles, wanting the benefits of being close to Jesus but lacking the will to do what he asks?

The good news is that there’s always time. The apostles may have shrunk away from Jesus’ calling in the Garden of Gethsemane but they made up for it after Jesus’ resurrection. They went to the far corners of the known world preaching Jesus’ Gospel and most of them gave their lives doing so. So maybe you haven’t mustered the strength to follow Jesus. The beauty of our faith is that Jesus always offers us a way to “get back into the game.” We can always receive Reconciliation, go to Mass, and pick up those rosary beads. Jesus will accept anyone willing to put in the effort whether they have 100 years left in his life or 1 minute.

Are We Punishing Ourselves?

Seeking the “Different”

All too often we seek the “different” because it seems more exotic and impressive. Consider weddings. It’s seems no longer good enough to have a ceremony followed by an enjoyable reception. No, you have to find things to make your wedding stand out — lavish locations, over-the-top decorations, exotic animals, and confetti cannons. Or you can’t go on a regular vacation. It needs to be something you can post on Facebook to make your friends envious.

This need to do something different and exotic didn’t start with Facebook and Twitter. It goes back to the Old Testament. In the book of Kings, generations of kings of Israel followed other gods. I think part of their motivation for doing this was that they wanted to be the king that did something new and progressive. Why follow that old-fashioned God who delivered people out of Egypt with his antiquated commandments when you can worship a more modern god like Baal? Because these pagan gods didn’t actually exist, the kings could attribute anything they wanted to them — any rule and practice would be okay in the eyes of the deity of the day.

Rejecting God

Fast forward thousands of years and look at our current situation. It isn’t too different than Israel in the Book of Kings. Governments and groups try to promote everything progressive and reject anything traditional. They want to take what has worked for generations and throw it out to try something new. Like the couple getting married or an Israelite king, they want to be remembered for doing something novel and unique. They don’t want to follow their predecessor, even if what they did worked, because they aren’t making their mark on history. Furthermore, they don’t want to be bounded by the existing rules but make new ones that are more malleable.

Let’s look around at what all these new progressive ideas have brought us as a society. Are we better off having adopted more woke progressivism and rejecting traditional ideas of marriage, stable families, gender, and even logic? Has tearing down time-tested traditions and institutions made us happier? Based on news headlines, I think people are generally less happy now than in previous generations. What’s changed? Do you think the devaluation of spirituality in our lives plays a part?

In the Book of Kings, terrible things happened to the people who rejected God. In some cases, it was due to God’s punishment. But I also think much of the misery came from the people’s rejection of God’s Commandments. If the Israelites rejected God and His commandments against stealing, adultery, murder, lying, etc. do you think they were happier as a result? Does that sound like a society anyone wants to be part of? Are we happier in a world that has rejected many of those same commandments? Seems like God doesn’t need to punish us when we’re doing a great job punishing ourselves.

The Rosary Connection

Let’s look at the Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation in the Temple. When I first started praying the Rosary, I always contemplated the meaning and value of tradition with this mystery. Mary and Joseph presented the baby Jesus in the temple as was tradition. They understood the importance of staying connected to the past as a means of grounding themselves spiritually. They acknowledged the role God plays in all our lives. By presenting Jesus in the temple, Mary and Joseph acknowledged that it was God and His Truth, not human institutions, that would form Jesus.

Fast forward to the Fifth Luminous Mystery — The Institution of the Eucharist. Jesus still observed the Jewish customs such as the Passover. While many claimed that he disregarded the Mosaic law, he explained that he was fulfilling it; bringing the people back to its true meaning. He wanted people to follow God’s commandments, not to be miserable, but to find joy and happiness. He didn’t want people to be blind rule followers, but instead people who treated each other kindly and honored God. If they could do that, they would find greater peace, joy, and happiness than they had ever known. But like the kings of the Old Testament, many people still insisted on doing things their way, not God’s way.

When you think about the sources of unhappiness in your life, ask yourself if they are due to breaking away from God’s plan for you. Are you rejecting God in favor of what is new, hip, and socially acceptable? Are you rejecting teachings that have brought true happiness to millions of people over thousands of years because they seem difficult or irrelevant? Are you happier as a result?

Activating the Holy Spirit

The Benefits of Credit

A credit card is just a piece of plastic with no function until it is activated. Once activated, you still have to use your credit responsibly. You have to not exceed your limit, run up too much debt, and make your payments on time. Finally, an unused credit card is also pointless because you’re not taking advantage of any benefits or discounts. But using credit responsibly provides many benefits and opens up your purchasing power.

If you are not manifesting the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your life:  [Charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity], the chances are that you have not activated the gifts. After you receive a new credit card, you activate it before you can use it. After the activation of the card, timely payment of your bill is the way to continue to enjoy the credit card.

seekfirst.blogspot.com

I like the analogy that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are like a credit card. To unlock all the benefits and rewards of a credit card, you have to activate it first. As we come up to Pentecost Sunday, ask yourself whether you’ve activated the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your life. Have you been praying, going to Mass, going to Confession, and fasting? In short, have you been trying to live the Catholic faith? That is how we activate the Holy Spirit.

Fruits of the Holy Spirit

God gives us a lot of freedom. He’s not going to force the Holy Spirit onto us. If we don’t want to receive all those benefits, we don’t have to activate them. But that begs the question, why not? Why wouldn’t we want God’s grace to help us to be more charitable, joyful, patient, and kind? People talk about how stupid it is to pass up free money. Why pass up God’s grace and the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are nearly free?

Don’t be foolish! Accept the gifts God wants to give us.

If credit cards have terms and conditions, what about the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Yes, they have them too but they are very generous. Basically, we have to use these gifts. We have to go out and be living witnesses to the faith. You can’t practice charity, patience, kindness, etc. in a vacuum. These are all fruits of interaction. God desires us to share these fruits with the world. Think about the saints. Yes, they prayed a lot. But that wasn’t all they did. They shared the gifts that God gave them with the world.

Excited Evangelism

When I think about sharing the fruits of the Holy Spirit, I think about the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary — the Visitation. As I’ve said before, Mary could have stayed put after receiving the news of her pregnancy in the Annunciation. But instead, she went out and shared joy, charity, peace, generosity, and kindness with her cousin Elizabeth. Mary was so full of God’s grace that she couldn’t resist sharing it with others.

Imagine a time when you had some really exciting news that you had to share. It was hard to keep quiet about it right? You probably felt like a balloon about to burst unless you had some way to release some of that excitement. That’s how Mary wants us to feel about our faith and love of Jesus! She knows what it is like to be so full of God’s grace and she desires that all her children experience the same.

Yes! We should be this excited about our faith.

The apostles couldn’t hold back using the fruits of the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. They went from cowards during Jesus’ Passion to inspired evangelists. They went to the ends of the known world utilizing the gifts bestowed on them at Pentecost. That passion is how God intends all of us to wisely use the gifts He gives us.

Pray that you have the desire to use the fruits of the Holy Spirit. When God sees that desire, He will provide all that you need and more. He’s done it countless times to Mary, the apostles, and the saints. God will do the same for you.

Having Faith in God’s Plan

Anyone who is around children knows that they don’t always follow good advice. Sometimes, when I see my boys making things more difficult for themselves, I offer suggestions to improve the situation. It might be providing them a better way to resolve a conflict or a nicer way to ask for what they want. But despite me only wanting what’s best for them, sometimes their stubbornness or their lack of understanding has them doing things their own way which often leads to further hardship.

One of my goals for 2021 is reading the entire Bible. I bought a special Bible from the Augustine Institute for the task. It’s divided into 365 sections with Old and New Testament readings each day. I’m currently on Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and I’ve noticed a few things about how the Israelites continually didn’t listen to God to their own detriment.

Doubting God in the Bible

It wasn’t God’s intent to have the Israelites wander the desert for 40 years after leaving Egypt. But when they arrived in the promised land, the Israelites’ scouts said they weren’t powerful enough to fight the current inhabitants. Their lack of faith in His plan angered God and that is why He told them they would not be able to enter the land for 40 years. Despite God telling the Israelites that He was with them, they kept acting like they were on their own without God’s guidance and protection.

We can look at the Israelites in the Old Testament and say, “I would have been different; I would have trusted God’s plan.” But that’s what St. Peter told Jesus. He was ready to follow Jesus to his death (Matthew 26:35). And then, when things got real and Jesus was arrested, Peter denied that he knew him! All the apostles fled and hid in fear despite all they had witnessed. Like the Israelites, the apostles just couldn’t let go of their rational, human way of looking at God’s plan. They clung to that doubt that even God has limits.

Our Doubts

And what about us? Let’s face it, the world isn’t in the best shape right now. Do we think that Covid-19 is a problem even too big for God to solve? Sure, we may pray to ask God to help those suffering from the pandemic. But how much confidence do we really have in God’s ability to lead us through these challenging times? We proclaim that God is all-loving and all-powerful. But how much confidence do we put in those words?

The Rosary

Look at Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. God told him he would not die until he saw the Messiah. The Israelites had been waiting for the Messiah for generations. How easy it would have been for Simeon to dismiss this proclamation and write it off as a moment of insanity. And yet Simeon didn’t doubt God’s plan like the Old Testament Israelites. He faithfully prayed in the temple waiting for Jesus’ arrival.

Fourth joyful mystery Resources

When we pray, let’s really put our faith in God’s ability to do anything no matter how far-fetched it may seem. Maybe, if enough of us really show that level of faith, any number of miracles can happen. Think about all those people Jesus cured. What did he say? Often, Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.” Where there is faith and humble openness to God, miracles flourish. Maybe we can change the world for the better if we all did a little less doubting in God and have more faith in His unlimited power.

Owning Lent

I’m always telling my kids that they need to show responsibility and ownership or someone else will. For example, owning their toys and games means not breaking them, putting them away, and not losing pieces. If they don’t take responsibility for keeping them functional, they will get lost or break. Or I may accidentally throw out a random, loose piece or someone will step on and break something carelessly left on the floor. The lesson being taught is that one way or another, something is going to happen to those toys and games. It’s better to be the one in control rather than leave it up to others.

Similarly to responsible ownership of things, we also have to own our faith. What I mean by that is that we need to actively manage or participate in it. But it’s something we often fail at. We sort of float through life, going to Mass on Sundays and saying a few prayers but not much else. When we go to Mass, we go into autopilot with the responses and listen to the priest the same way we listen to someone giving a lecture or presentation. We’re there physically but absent spiritually. And many times, we don’t go out of our way to attend Adoration or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Basically, we don’t give our faith a lot of thought.

Don’t be a Simon

We are often like Simon of Cyrene. He was forced into helping Jesus carry the cross. I like to think of him as someone who was there because he was curious about what was going on. He wanted to see who Jesus was and what was this big deal about him. I think he had no other plan than to passively watch the day’s events unfold. And the next thing he knew, the soldiers picked him out of the crowd and made him shoulder the weight of the cross. That was probably something unexpected and unwelcome.

Jesus said that we all must carry our crosses. But we have a choice. We can either choose our crosses or someone else will thrust one on us. In this season of Lent, we have many “crosses” to choose from. We can fast, abstain, and increase our prayers and charity. But the key is to actively invest in these practices to more fully embrace our faith and increase our love for Jesus. Otherwise, we become like Simon where hardships are thrust upon us.

In not embracing the faith, we may avoid the relatively minor crosses of Mass, prayer, fasting, etc. But we give up so much more. We lose the joy that comes from celebrations like Easter and Christmas and even Sunday Mass. Without the lows of fasting and the highs of celebration, we live in a flat desert of spirituality. We don’t feel connected to God or protected by Him. We are left to our own devices to face our often harsh world and the snares of the devil.

Active Faith in the Rosary

Compare Simon to Mary in the Second Joyful Mystery. She made a conscious decision to travel while pregnant and help her cousin Elizabeth. She wasn’t passive after the Annunciation but actively decided to serve others. It was probably an uncomfortable journey and a lot of hard work. But it was an active choice. It was a “cross” Mary wanted to carry.

Don’t let this Lent pass by. Own it. There’s still time to make a plan on how you want to make this time different and special. If you don’t already pray the Rosary daily, resolve to do it for the remainder of Lent. Make a plan to read Scripture daily, or fast, or visit a church and sit silently in prayer. Don’t be a Simon and think you can just observe Jesus at a distance. Be like Mary and the saints and actively embrace him.

Honor God by Resting on Sundays

My wife was reading a book with one of my sons called The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls. It’s a kids’ book of Bible stories. I listened to them read the first book which deals with the creation of the universe in the book of Genesis. I enjoyed a passage talking about why Sundays are a day of rest and we should treat them as such. The character asked why God rested if He’s all-powerful. Certainly, God couldn’t have been tired since He doesn’t have a physical body that needs rest. But God declared rest a good thing. Just as He created the world and animals for us, God created a day of rest, not for Him, but for us.

We live in a world where we try to cram so much into our days. In fact, there’s a new term that I think best exemplifies this tendency — rage browsing. Rage browsing is where we stay up browsing the internet late into the evening because we want to prolong the time we are awake doing something leisurely. It’s about us wanting to carve out time for ourselves in a world where it seems like someone else controls our schedules throughout the day. We want to put everything else aside to just relax.

Our faith tells us that we need to also carve out Sunday as a time to relax. This isn’t just good advice or some pandemic trend, it’s the Fourth Commandment.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

This Commandment not only covers our Sunday Mass obligation but commands us to rest as God did after creating the universe. This should be the easiest Commandment to follow. God is telling us to just stop working and relax.

The Rosary and Rest

Meditate on the Third Joyful Mystery, the Nativity. In the Nativity story, angels appeared to shepherds and told them of Jesus’ birth. They dropped what they were doing to go and honor Jesus. We should be like the shepherds and pause our busy lives for one day to honor God. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, then let’s imitate God by resting as He did.

Exactly what it means to rest is subject to debate. An orthodox Jew doesn’t cook or operate any machinery on the Sabbath. I don’t think we need to take it that far. The general guidance is that you should make it a day of increased meditation and focus on God. I know for a lot of us, it’s difficult to cut the weekend in half when there is so much to do. You may have to rearrange and reprioritize work and tasks. Consider it a sacrifice that further honors God. Here are some ways to spend your Sunday that captures the spirit of taking a day to rest:

  • Abstain from large amounts of housework, but go ahead and tidy up things if it makes you more relaxed.
  • Throw some laundry in the washing machine if you must, but save the sorting and ironing for later.
  • Spend some time as a family. Go for a hike or play a game together.
  • Do some cooking or baking as a family and enjoy a brunch or dinner together.
  • Put away your electronic devices for a certain period of time.
  • Pray, read, or watch religious-themed media like Formed.
  • Discuss the day’s scripture readings and the Mass homily.
  • Just sit quietly, outside if the weather is nice. Silence is golden.
  • Call or visit with friends and family members, especially your parents.
  • Try to schedule classes and events on a day other than Sunday. Sometimes, this is unavoidable but try to keep Sunday as open as possible.

How to Listen to God in a Noisy World

All that noise, noise, noise! Who remembers that phrase from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas“? Now that I’m older, I can sympathize with the Grinch and his desire for some peace and quiet. I wonder if sometimes God thinks something similar… “how can they hear Me over all that noise, noise, noise”? We can learn about the gift of listening to God from the story of Zechariah.

Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this? 
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. 
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. 
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent | USCCB

I always viewed Zechariah’s silence as a punishment for his disbelief in the power of God. However, in one meditation book I read, the author wants us to look at his silence not as a punishment but as an opportunity. It was an opportunity for Zechariah to listen to what God was telling him. God freed Zechariah from all the noise, both external and internal, so that he could finally listen.

Notice how Zechariah was stricken mute when he was praying in the Holies of Holies. God was basically telling him to be quiet and listen when he prayed. I think often we are like Zechariah in our prayers. We ask God for this and that, expecting Him to answer. But we don’t give Him a chance to answer, we just keep talking and talking. Our prayers are all output. But do we take the time to accept input from God? Maybe God tries to answer but is drowned out because we won’t stop to listen.

Any parent of small children can sympathize. My kids have a tendency to talk in long, run-on sentences. Even if I want to comment or answer a question, I can’t because there’s no opportunity. Of course, I could always interrupt, but that would be impolite. God, the ultimate gentleman, probably acts the same way. Instead of interrupting us, he waits patiently for the right opportunity. And that means we need to stop the talking and be still enough to hear Him.

Quietness and stillness are at a premium this year. With many of us working from home and our kids remote schooling, finding a quiet time and place during the day is challenging. It may require more of an effort. Perhaps we need to wake up earlier before the daily chaos kicks in to pray the Rosary and just sit silently to listen to God (a good cup of coffee helps). Maybe it means turning off the TV, computer, and phones earlier in the evening and just meditate in a dark, quiet house. These are sacrifices, but isn’t it worth it for a chance to listen to God’s personal advice to you? Or would you rather He strike you mute for nine months?

Just One More Day: The Fifth Joyful Mystery

I coach youth soccer. I often see my players give up easily when something doesn’t come naturally to them. Someone may have a hard time passing the ball across the field. Or maybe they don’t dribble as well as some of the other players. So after having the ball stolen from them a few times, they want to stop playing because they’ve decided soccer isn’t their sport. They don’t understand that anything new will be difficult but they will get better if they stick with it. But it’s not just children that have a hard time staying with something that is difficult. Adults fall victim to this urge to give up when times are tough too.

I think many of us give up way too easily in the face of hardship. When facing a challenge, we may pray a Rosary or go to Mass and ask God for help. For many of us, the only time we pray earnestly is when we are facing something difficult. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But often we tend to think we’re holding up our end of the bargain with God and He better answer quickly. If God doesn’t deliver, we get upset believing that the whole prayer endeavor was pointless and give it up.

Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days in sorrow. What if they had given up after one day of searching? Now I’m sure Jesus would have grown up just fine since he is the Son of God. But Mary and Joseph would have regretted not looking a little harder for their lost son. But as any parent knows, finding a lost child is too important to just give hope after a short period of time. They kept searching and hoping despite the fruitlessness of the first days of searching. And they finally found Jesus.

What makes praying to God frustrating in times of difficultly is that we don’t know when or how God answers. Unfortunately, there isn’t a chart we can look at to know when God answers our prayers. It would be convenient if we could look up the Catechism and see that one Rosary novena will yield a small request being granted within two weeks. But that’s not how God works. For some, it’s three days in sorrow, for others it’s three decades.

As much as we don’t enjoy hardship and sorrow, they are powerful tools that draw us closer to God. In realizing our sorrow and asking God for help, we also acknowledge our dependence on God. We realize that true happiness is something that comes through Him, not in our worldly institutions or through our own actions. Furthermore, in prayer, we may receive comfort, strength, and grace in ways we don’t even realize. We may be so focused on God wanting to address a particular sorrow, we overlook the other ways He may be answering us. At the very least, God may be giving us increased strength to endure our hardship for another day.

We have to realize that God’s timeframe and overall goal is much different than ours. We may hope or expect an answer in a matter of days. But it may be months, years, or an entire lifetime before we get an answer. But what’s a single lifetime in God’s grand plan? Even the most terrible human suffering will be looked at as a trivial inconvenience compared to the eternal happiness of Heaven. God often answers our prayers by putting us on a track towards Heaven. That may not require eliminating our worldly problems. The saints understood this and endured many challenges and sorrows because they knew that God was helping them and others achieve lasting comfort in Heaven.

When you feel impatient or hopeless over life’s challenges, meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery. Think about how Mary and Joseph didn’t give up finding Jesus and neither should we. And often, like Mary and Joseph, we’ll find Jesus and relief from our suffering in the most obvious of places — our Father’s house, the Church.

New Joyful Mysteries Page

Good news everyone! I redesigned the layout of the Joyful Mysteries resource page. It’s much more app-like and acts better on smaller screens like phones and tablets. I’ll be working on the other mysteries this month and roll them out as they become available.

Thanks to some great WordPress plugins (a big shout out to Slide Anything and Tabs Responsive!), there are now tabs for each mystery and for each section within the mystery for intentions, meditations, videos, and scripture passages (related links tab coming soon). Within the meditations, you can scroll/swipe left and right to read a random meditation from other websites. If you like what you read, be sure to follow the links and visit those sites. This new layout should reduce the number of pages you have to navigate to pray the mysteries.

https://www.rosarymeds.com/the-joyful-mysteries/

I hope you enjoy this new layout and it helps make your Rosary prayer more fruitful. Maybe one day I can transform this into a real app. Baby steps…