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.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Understanding

I’m going to explore the next gift of the Holy Spirit — understanding. Understanding is closely related to wisdom as well as knowledge. It shares many of the same attributes as wisdom such as engaging one’s mind. If wisdom is the desire to seek the truth, understanding helps explain the “why” behind those truths.

When I think about understanding, I think about my kids. I find it easy to resort to an authoritarian mode where I expect them to blindly follow my instructions. But it is far more effective to have kids understand the reason behind my requests rather than resorting to “because I said so.” Without understanding, we are in a mode of “because I said so” with God. Our Catholic Faith is reduced to a set of rules we follow merely to stay out of Hell. It’s the gift of understanding that elevates us to follow God because we can see the sound reasoning behind the rules.

Understanding allows us to see the world as God does in a limited way. We cannot comprehend all that God does, but the gift of understanding allows us to partially know and better appreciate God’s plan. The gift of understanding provides us that insight into God’s plan, and hence, passionately follow it as the saints do. Understanding is what moves us beyond obeying God because He’s the ultimate authority figure into wanting to follow Him because we know it’s ultimately beneficial to us.

Understanding in the Rosary

Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery, Finding Jesus in the Temple. A young Jesus is asking and answering questions amongst the learned scribes and scholars. God doesn’t impart the gift of understanding solely through learned scholars. In this mystery, it came through a child. God has a tendency to pick unlikely messengers whether it be Moses in the Old Testament, Jesus, Saint Peter and Paul, and numerous other saints. God often imparts understanding through unusual means. When you pray this mystery, ask yourself, are you open to all the ways God is speaking to you? Maybe He wants you to better understand Him and you’re not open to the way He delivers His messages.

Another great Rosary mystery that focuses on understanding is the First Sorrowful MysteryThe Agony in the Garden. Jesus begged God to find a different way to redeem the world but ultimately said He would do God’s Will. Jesus understood that God has a reason behind everything He does and allows to happen. Logically, we may not comprehend it or even agree with it, but it’s that gift of understanding that allows us to joyfully obey. It’s not blind obedience rooted in fear, but one where we know that what God asks of us is to our benefit.

Finally, contemplate the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus’ Crucifixion. On the cross, one criminal challenged Jesus to save them all from death. The other criminal humbly understood who Jesus was and didn’t dare question why Jesus didn’t save Himself or them. He simply asked Jesus to remember him. That’s the root of understanding — not treating God like some sort of genie who gives us what we ask for. Instead, it’s understanding why God does what He does and seeing the greater good that comes from it.

Understanding is penetrating insight into the very heart of things, especially those higher truths that are necessary for our eternal salvation—in effect, the ability to “see” God.

Summa Theologiae (I/I.12.5; I/II.69.2; II/II.8.1–3)

Understanding is not easy. Like children, we often want to do things our way and resist any authority that tells us otherwise. This is why understanding is a gift since it’s not something easily obtained by ourselves. But it’s important to understand the “why” behind our faith. Everything we believe and do as Christians has a reason. The more we understand those reasons, the happier we will be doing God’s Will.

What the Fifth Joyful Mystery Tells Us about Patience

Do you often feel like God is taking His sweet time addressing your problems and concerns? Join the club. Looks like growing impatient with God is as old as the Bible itself. Abraham also got tired of waiting for God’s plan to come to fruition and see he tried doing things his own way. And in one of the mysteries of the Rosary, we see Mary and Joseph looking for Jesus in all the wrong places instead of the most obvious one.

This article on DesiringGod.org talks about how God told Abraham that his descendants will be as plentiful as the stars in the sky. But Abraham was already quite old and grew impatient waiting for God to fulfill His promise. Abraham tried things his own way only to find that it was not God’s plan. He was just too impatient to let God’s plan manifest itself. The article goes on to remind us that we do not see things as God sees them and that He has His reasons for letting things progress as they do.

God has not forgotten us. It’s not that our requests are unimportant. He will answer them in his own time (which is also always the best time for us). He sees what we cannot see; he knows the potential dangers and snares he is protecting us from. While we’re waiting, God is with us. He aches with us, cries with us, comforts us. He meets us in our pain and uses all our struggles for our good. One day, we will thank him for everything that he gave us, and denied us, on this earth.

www.desiringgod.org

Nearly every Rosary mystery contains some aspect of waiting, the need to show patience, and putting faith in God’s plan. Look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus for three days. That’s three days of wandering around a large city asking, “have you seen our son?” I practically have a heart attack when one of my kids is out of my sight for a few seconds at a busy playground. I can’t imagine the sorrow and frustration Mary and Joseph must have felt.

Once Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, Jesus tells them that he was at the temple because it was His Father’s house. I often picture Jesus in this Bible verse as being confused about why his parents would even think of looking somewhere else. Why did they spend all the time searching when the most obvious place would be the temple?

And yet, how often do we overlook the obvious and look elsewhere for answers and solutions to our problems? Like Abraham, we get tired and frustrated waiting for God’s answers and so we look somewhere else for help. That could be a self-help book, a “get rich quick” scheme, or falling back on habits or addictions like food, alcohol, or drugs. We consult our friends on social media and look to politicians to “save us” from whatever challenges we face. And all that time, God is right there in the Church which we often ignore. Ironically, we have the patience to try 100 wrong solutions but not the patience to earnestly wait for God’s divine plan to manifest itself.

When we pray the Fifth Joyful Mystery, think about all the time either you or people you know spend searching in sorrow. If they seem to be looking in all the wrong places, pray for them that they may turn towards God through His “house,” the Catholic Church. And pray for those who maybe aren’t ready to hear God’s truth as it may seem too harsh. There is a whole generation of “Nones” that are wandering in sorrow because they don’t want to accept the realities of God’s truth or His plan that leads to eternal joy in Heaven.

As a software engineer, I can spend hours and even days tracking down a bug in a piece of code. I run all sorts of test cases, profilers, and debuggers. I send emails and texts asking questions and receiving information all in an attempt to fix the bug. Often, the hours spent debugging result in a one-line code change. And once I find the solution I marvel about how obvious it was and wonder why I didn’t come up with it faster.

And so it is with our faith. When we look back on our lives, many of us will wonder why we spent so much time and energy finding joy in all the wrong places when it was right there in God’s grace. We will realize that the answer or “secret to life” was revealed to us every Sunday at Mass. Or God whispered it to us whenever we prayed to Him. Why did we not have the faith and patience to let the true plan, God’s plan, play out? Don’t look back at your life regretting the 100 “short cuts” to happiness that just got you lost. Start or continue on the true path, God’s path, so you won’t have regrets. You will have to be patient, but it will be worth it in the end.

Holiness is the Goal

I read this article on Catholic Exchange about how we should never give up striving for holiness. The author, Constance T. Hull, echos many of the same thoughts as Matthew Kelly in his book that I reviewed, The Biggest Lie in Christianity. Essentially, both talk about how life is made up of moments where we decide either to act holy or sinfully. Of course, the goal is to decide to make each moment a holy moment. Mrs. Hull makes these fine points as we strive for holiness.

  1. We cannot do it alone. It is only through Christ that we achieve holiness. In other words, apart from Christ holiness is not possible and it doesn’t even make sense. How can you be holy without dedicating the moment to Jesus Christ?
  2. We will fall daily. There will be times when we choose not to act saintly. It’s important to realize when we fall so we can analyze why we made that decision and how to not repeat it in the future.
  3. We must get back up. We can’t dwell on our sins. When Jesus forgives us through Reconciliation, He puts our sins behind Him. And we must put them behind us too and not let them lead us into despair.
  4. Seek forgiveness immediately. Part of putting our sins behind us to make forgiveness a priority. This means prioritizing the Sacrament of Reconciliation and setting things right with the people we’ve hurt through our sins.
  5. Holiness is the goal. It’s not just priests and nuns that must live holy lives. We are all called to be saints and we all have the ability to live as saints. But that doesn’t happen by accident. We have to make it a priority.

Enter the Rosary

The mysteries of the Rosary help us lead holy lives. I could pick any of the twenty mysteries and discuss how they touch on one of the aspects of holiness mentioned by Matthew Kelly or Constance Hull. Let’s look at a few. Think about how God calls you to holiness when you meditate on these mysteries.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery, the finding of Jesus in the temple, always reminds me of our quest for holiness. This mystery is a story of loss, agony, and ultimately finding Jesus. And that’s what life is — a continuous cycle of losing Jesus through sin, suffering, and ultimately coming back and finding Jesus in His father’s house, aka the Church and Her sacraments.

I also can’t help but think of the Third Luminous Mystery, Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of Heaven and His call to conversion, and meditate on our call to holiness. Matthew Kelly explores this a lot more, but a central theme of holiness is allowing God to totally transform you. It’s not a minor change here, and a tweak there. Jesus asks us to dedicate our lives to conversion. That means changing from one thing to something completely different. We can’t be both saintly and worldly. We have to choose what we want to be and actively convert our actions from worldly ones to holy ones. Remember Mrs. Hull’s words — conversion to holiness is the goal for all us.

Lastly, let’s look at the Third Glorious Mystery, Pentecost. Mrs. Hull said we cannot become holy on our own. And that is why we have the Holy Spirit to guide us on our quest towards holiness. We need to be conscious of how the Holy Spirit acts in our lives as it will often be subtle. It won’t be through a burning bush, a booming voice in the sky, or an apparition. The Holy Spirit acts by providing opportunities to act holy, or implanting a quick thought on doing something nice, or providing a sense of peace and thankfulness towards God. We have to be open to the small ways the Holy Spirit nudges us towards holiness.

God gives us all of the opportunity and many tools to becomes saints. Are you taking advantage of all of them?

Saint Dominic: Model of Humility

I recently completed reading Saint Dominic and the Rosary by Catherine Beebe.  Saint Dominic’s life was a saintly one in every sense of the word.  He practiced the saintly virtues of humility and patience throughout his life.  We should also practice these virtues during Advent as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth and reflect on the life of the greatest saint, our Mother Mary, who is the paradigm of patience and humility.

Catherine Beebe’s book walks through Saint Dominic’s life from his early childhood through his holy death.  Keep in mind that this isn’t an academic or rigorously historical book.  It contains conversations and events that I’m sure came from second and third hand sources or were created in an attempt to better explain aspects of Saint Dominic’s personality.  But that in no way takes away from the motivational and inspiring power of this book.  Personally, I want to learn about Saint Dominic’s virtues, not a dry day-by-day historical account of his life.

According to the book, Saint Dominic strived for sainthood his entire life.  He always oriented himself towards bringing people closer to God.  When he was a young priest traveling through Spain, he was never too tired or busy to preach to the Albigensian heretics and try to convert them.  He lived humbly, never indulging in earthly delights.  In fact, he never ate more food than what he needed to stay healthy.  Even the order he founded put their faith in God to provide for them as they relied entirely on people’s donations of food, clothing, and other provisions.

It is this total giving of self that is the main theme throughout
Catherine Beebe’s book.  And I think this is also why our Mother Mary choose Saint Dominic to bring Her Rosary into the world.  She too, was a total servant of God; putting aside Her wants and expectations to completely accept God’s plan for Her.   That is what God wants out of a saint — a complete and willing submission to His Will.  When I say “submission” I’m not talking about it in that dominating sense of the word.  I mean that we willingly put our lives into God’s hands with faith that He will lead us to true happiness.

You have to be humble to be a servant to God.  Humility is the virtue which defeats pride.  And pride is the sin of centering your entire life around your wants and desires.  You can’t put yourself into God’s hands while centering your life around what you want at the same time.  You have to choose.  Likewise, saintly behavior requires patience.  It’s a lifelong journey of trusting in God when times are either good or bad.  You can’t say you’re devoted to God and then bail on Him at the first sign of hardship.  Is it easy?  Of course not.  But where do you think the phrases patience is a virtue and patience of a saint come from?  Being a saint isn’t easy but it’s the life God calls all of us to live.

The Rosary Connection

Look at Mary in the First Joyful Mystery.  She showed great humility placing Her life in God’s hands in the Annunciation.  Now move on to the Fifth Joyful Mystery.  Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for several days “in sorrow.”  Imagine the patience Mary had to show and not give up hope of finding her lost son.  We can learn from Mary that even when times are difficult, we need to show patience for God to show us the way.  It is in that quiet patience that God will show us the way out of hardship.

PSA: archive.org

Lastly, I want to point our a really useful Rosary resource — www.archive.org.  I found that book about Saint Dominic on archive.org and, like a library, I was able to check it out as an ebook.  If you do a search for “rosary” on the site, you will find all sorts of books, newsletters, pamphlets, etc.  Many of those are out of print and you cannot find anywhere else (which is the whole point of why we have archive.org).  If you’re looking for some new Rosary material, give archive.org a look (and support it with a donation if you find anything of value).

Why You Need Contemplative Prayer Right Now

With only two weeks left before Christmas, many of us are feeling that last minute pressure to finish shopping (or start it) and finalize plans.  Did you get the right presents?  Did you forget to send a Christman card to someone important?  Will the package you ordered be delivered on time?  There are so many questions and concerns spinning around in our heads right now.  And that is why it’s the perfect time to stop and engage in some contemplative prayer.

In my recent presentation, I emphasized how the Rosary is a meditative and contemplative prayer.  And this makes sense given its origin — our Mother Mary.  In the Gospel, Mary is a woman of few words.  Instead, she is always listening and observing what Jesus is saying and doing.  In so many instances, the Gospel talks about how she keeps things in her heart.  She is humble and reserved taking the role as God’s servant.  She is the paradigm of contemplative behavior.  And likewise, her gift to us, the Rosary, is modeled after her contemplative nature.

Here are some examples of how you can use contemplative prayer to great effect.  This Advent, in addition to a morning Rosary prayer, I’ve taken up reading from a daily prayer and reflection book.  By front-loading my day with prayer and scripture, I have plenty to think about and meditate on when I find some quiet downtime throughout my day.  Jonathan B. Coe, in his article on Catholic Exchange, calls the combination of scripture and Rosary prayer a “contemplative canvas that renews the mind and facilitates an open-handed generosity in life.”  If your day is a blank canvas, how are you painting it?  And you filling it with holy thoughts and actions fueled by the Gospel and Rosary?

One of the Advent reflections I read stressed the importance of silence and clearing your mind of all the holiday distractions.  Remember, Jesus’ birth wasn’t a grand event in the physical sense.  It was a quiet one that took place in a stable or cave in some small, out of the way village.  And even today, the commercial grandeur of Christmas drowns out the whisper-like presence of Jesus’ birthday.  It is only in the stillness of meditative prayer that we block out the noisy world to truly appreciate the heart of Christmas.

Lastly, I recently finished reading a biography on Saint Dominic, through whom Mary gave the world the Rosary.  He traveled throughout Europe in his life.  And wherever he went, when he had free time, he visited a church or cathedral and prayed.  That routine of filling part of the day in contemplative prayer can be said of any number of saints.  God desires all of us to saintlike behavior as that is the quickest means to internal happiness in His kingdom.  And so, maybe we should take a cue from the saints and also fill some of our lives with meditative prayer.  For example, after I drop off my son at school, I stop by the church to sit quietly and pray.  Maybe you can find time to attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Try attending a weekday Mass or just sit quietly in a Church for a few minutes.  Or maybe, just lay still in bed when you wake up and spend a few minutes in prayer before starting your day.

Think about Mary’s contemplative behavior in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.  When the shepherds came to Jesus talking about angels announcing His birth, Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19).  Upon finding Jesus in the temple and hearing Him say that he needed to be in His Father’s house, she treasured all these things in her heart (Luke 2:51).  Are you talking regularly with God through prayer and treasuring His response in your heart?

How the Rosary Helps Us Avoid “Everlasting Sin”

 

“’Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.’”

This passage from the Gospel of Mark confused me until recently.  We talk about an all loving and merciful God so how can there be an unforgivable sin?  How can the God that created everything from nothing not have the capacity to forgive everything?  When I was younger, I asked myself, “what if I already committed this unforgivable sin and not know it?  Is the rest of my life pointless because God has already told St. Peter to not allow me into Heaven?”

Fortunately, the unforgivable sin doesn’t work like that.  This isn’t some sort of gotcha or fine print in Catholic doctrine that God will use to keep you out of Heaven.  It’s simply a way of restating that a sin will remain unforgiven if you never ask for forgiveness.  This Catholic Exchange article does a good job of breaking down the unforgivable sin into six aspects:

  1. despair
  2. presumption
  3. impenitence
  4. obstinacy
  5. resisting truth
  6. spiritual welfare

Do you notice a common theme in these?  As the CE article states:

In every case analyzed above, we can determine that the only way any sin is truly unpardonable is if the person remains unrepentant. The reasons, as we have sorted through, vary from envy to despair. Each is caused by a hardness of heart, which is directly opposed to meekness. Meekness is that beatitude that mollifies and softens what has become calloused by deep, unhealed wounds. Our models for meekness, of course, are Jesus and Mary.

How does the Rosary teach us about meekness and avoiding behaviors that lead to an unforgiven sin?  Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery and the finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days after losing Him in the caravan.  They did whatever they needed to do to find Jesus.  We too must do whatever it takes to find Jesus when we lose Him by sinning.  We can’t have a hardened heart or the presumption that Jesus is okay with our behavior.  We must acknowledge our wrongdoings and come back to Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Think about the Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary and Jesus’ miracle at Cana.  We see Jesus’ ability to perform miracles and turn potential disaster (a wedding without booze, oh no!) into overflowing joy.  That miracle is a great metaphor for what happens to our souls in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  God, through the Holy Spirit, takes our broken, damaged soul and miraculously transforms it into a pure one filled with hope, joy, and grace.  Mary asked Jesus to perform a miracle at Cana.  And, whenever we enter that confessional, we ask Him to perform a miracle too.

Next we turn to the Third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary — the descent of the Holy Spirit.  Why is a hardened heart such a grave offense?  Remember, the Holy Spirit is one part of the Holy Trinity.  So rejecting the power and authority of the Holy Spirit is rejecting God.  And what’s mortal sin but the total rejection of God?  By thinking that God can’t or won’t forgive us, we reject His supremacy over His creation.  We are saying that we, the created, are capable of actions that are beyond God’s control.  When we pray this Rosary mystery, let’s not only think of the Holy Spirit as our guide but also remember that He’s also God as part of the Holy Trinity.

Finally, the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Crucifixion.  There’s actually two things to consider.  First, Jesus is so willing to forgive that He asked God to forgive the ones who crucified Him.  For most of us, our sins will probably never be as grave as murdering God’s begotten Son.  If God can forgive that, He can forgive anything we do.

Also, the criminal crucified next to Jesus simply asked Jesus to remember him.  And Jesus proclaimed that the criminal would be with Him in paradise.  Again, ask Jesus anything with a meek and humble heart and Jesus will respond.

Okay, now that we’ve talked about the power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I’ll end on a more light-hearted note.  Here’s a clip from The Simpsons about the limits of God’s power.

What the Rosary Tells Us About Judas’ Betrayal

Because we celebrated the Solemnity of the Ascension on Sunday, many of us didn’t hear the regular readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles was particularly interesting to me. It highlighted the discussions among the apostles on how to fill the vacancy in the apostleship left behind by Judas.  This reading provides plenty of rosary meditation ideas.

Here’s a clip from the first reading.  You can read it in full here or listen to the audio here.

Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers
—there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons
in the one place —.
He said, “My brothers,
the Scripture had to be fulfilled
which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand
through the mouth of David, concerning Judas,
who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
He was numbered among us
and was allotted a share in this ministry.

“For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
May another take his office.

“Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men
who accompanied us the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,
beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us,
become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

The downfall of Judas is interesting to me for many reasons. Judas was someone who was as close to Jesus as anyone could have been. He was in the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples and had an understanding of Jesus teachings no one else had. Remember, the apostles understood Jesus on a different level than everyone else. In Mark 4:11, Jesus said He talked in parables to people because the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you [the apostles], but not to them [the people]. Judas had been given all these graces and yet he threw them away for 30 pieces of silver. Judas exemplifies the inherent weakness of the human spirit; that we willingly give away so much for so little.

We may not be one of the twelve apostles, but we know Jesus through the lens of history and Church teachings. We know the tremendous gifts God offers us and yet we so readily throw them away like Judas did. How?  Maybe we skip going to Sunday Mass because we would rather watch a football game or sleep in. We break fasts because that Snickers bar looks way too tempting. We skip prayers because there is something good on TV. We engage in sinful activities substituting happiness through God’s grace with empty pleasures. Whenever we sin, we are like Judas giving away so much in return for so little.

“At least at Mass I could have coffee and donuts afterwards.”

Judas’ story also shows us just how much freedom God gives us. Even as one of the twelve apostles, Judas freely left and betrayed Jesus.  We know from the Agony in the Garden how scared Jesus was of his crucifixion.  He had all the power to stop Judas if He wanted to.  But it was so important to Jesus to let people freely chose to follow or reject Him that He accepted Judas’ choice to betray Him. We never fault Jesus for Judas’ betrayal. And hence, we shouldn’t feel like we have failed when those closest to us turn away from their faith or fall into a life of sin. If Jesus could be betrayed, any one of us can also be.

The Rosary Connection

Think of the Fifth Joyful Mystery and how Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple after they had lost him. We lose Jesus whenever we sin but we return to His grace when we look for and find Him in the Sacrament of Confession. Jesus is always willing to welcome us back. Even Judas could have received forgiveness if he had only looked for it. After all, Peter denied knowing Jesus but returned and was strengthened because he understood Jesus’ ability to forgive him. The Fifth Joyful Mystery should remind us that the choice is always ours on how we want to deal with our sin. Do we want to wallow in it and have it ultimately consume us like it did Judas? Or do we choose to seek God’s forgiveness and return to His grace?

Finding Jesus in “His Father’s House”

We should also think about those who have their own Judas in their lives — those who have loved ones who chose a life of sin. Think about them when you pray the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery. They have heavy crosses to bear that may not be entirely of their own doing. But it weighs them down all the same. We pray that those who are rejected in favor of sin have the strength to carry on whether that means continuing to reach out and help those who have turned away from God’s path or accepting that sometimes we can’t bring people back from their sinful ways through physical actions. And when I say accept, I don’t mean give up. We should always continue to pray for lost souls because while we may not be able to change their hearts, the Holy Spirit can.

We Pray…

Lord, please forgive us for the times we’ve acted like Judas. Provide strength to those who feel betrayed by those closest to them. Help those who wallow in sin and let them know that they can always choose to return to you through your sacraments.  Amen.

Fill Your Understanding of God with Faith

Often times I find it easy to read the Bible and think, “well isn’t that obvious!”  I am amazed at how foolish Saint Peter acts in Jesus’ presence or how arrogant the Pharisees are when they doubt Jesus’ divinity.  We so often forget just how radical Jesus was and the fact that He was the Son of God was not taken for granted.  Even Jesus’ own parents were confused by His actions.  And while we may scoff at their unbelief, are we any better?

When we read about the finding of Jesus in the temple, which we meditate on in the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, let’s recall the passage when Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus:

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

I find it hard to believe that Mary did not understand Jesus’ behavior and why she was confused when He referred to the temple as “His Father’s house.”  This is the same boy who was miraculously conceived, whose birth was heralded by angels, who wise men searched for with gifts, and Saint Simeon said was the Chosen One at His presentation in the Temple.  I’m confused by Mary and Joseph’s bewilderment.  How do they not understand that Jesus is special?  How do they not understand the many signs that He is the Messiah?

Okay, so we’re puzzled by the Mary, Joseph, and the apostles’ behavior in the presence of Jesus.  We marvel at their unbelief and confusion.  But now put yourself in the shoes of someone in Purgatory or Heaven.  They see us sinning.  They see us skipping our prayers, skipping Mass (or participating half-heartedly), and not following what Jesus taught.  They must look at us with the same level of astonishment that we have towards those in Scripture.  They must be frustrated and saddened thinking, “How do they not get it!!!??  If they know who Jesus is, why do they sin?  Why do they not make more of an effort to live in His grace?  Why are they not following His teachings?”

When you pray the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, try to flip your perspective to the saints in Heaven.  Do you look foolish in their eyes by not making the most of your faith?  Do you downplay or ignore the truths taught by the Church?

How an angel must feel seeing us sin

I really like how the account of the finding of Jesus in the temple ends.  It says Mary TREASURED all these things in Her heart.  That word “treasured” is really interesting.  She didn’t fully understand Jesus’ nature at a cognitive level but she still treasured who He was.  That is a great showing of faith.  We may not understand all the teachings of the Catholic Church and struggle to appreciate Jesus’ true nature as God made man.  And yet, we can still treasure the Church’s teachings and our relationship with Jesus even when it’s confusing.  It is the truest measure of faith — treasuring that which we do not understand.  Mary is Queen of Heaven because she embraced Jesus even amongst Her confusion.

When you pray and meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, ask God to help you accept and treasure what you don’t fully understand.  Our human minds will never be capable of fully understanding Jesus.  After all, the finite (our minds) cannot take in the infinite (God).  But thankfully, faith is there to fill the void.  When you pray, ask God to fill the void in understanding with faith.  And then treasure the fact that your understanding of God is complete when you combine what you know with what you take on faith.

One Trick to Start Your Day Right

Now that my son has started kindergarten, my family’s leisurely mornings are a thing of the past.  We now have to wake up early and help get our son fed, dressed, packed, and out the door before the opening school bell.  Like race horses at the starting gate, when that alarm clock rings in the morning we need to be off at a full gallop to get everything done.

My week day routine is not unique.  Many people start their day ten steps behind and are in a constant rush.  And among the snooze alarm pushing and coffee chugging, something very important is often missed.  And this one action might determine whether you have a good or bad day.  Here’s a clue, it’s not checking your Facebook and Twitter feeds the instant you get up.  Long time RosaryMeds readers can probably already guess where I’m going.  Morning prayer may be the difference between a good day or an off day.

When we skip morning prayer, we so often go through our day not realizing that we are fighting a battle with our hands tied behind our back.  We are like soldiers going off to battle with no weapon and no protection wondering why everything is so hard and miserable. This is because we did not include Jesus in our day by praying to Him or asking our Holy Mother or the saints for their help and intercession.

In his book,  Live Today Well, Fr. Thomas Dailey writes about the importance and benefits of starting your day focused on God from the instant you open your eyes.

Beyond an existential awareness, the practice of directing our minds to God corresponds to and fa­cilitates a positive psychology. Experience shows that the mood with which we begin the day tends to color the entire day. What Francis de Sales understood is that start­ing the day with God in mind leads to keeping God in mind throughout the day.

All of this is intended to turn our morning routine into a sacred one. Routines play a key role in human life. Able to be done without our giving them much thought, they are comfort­able, and often comforting, acts. Psychologically, even if not consciously, they represent a way of exercising a modicum of control over the chaos of our surroundings. Our habits lead us to do the same thing over and over again each morning; were we to deviate from this habitual routine, we would probably think something was “off ” or just not right.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary (The Finding of Jesus in the Temple) exemplifies this common human weakness to leave God out of our everyday lives. In this rosary mystery, Mary and Joseph assumed Jesus was with them in the caravan leaving Jerusalem. When they finally discovered that he was missing, they started to panic and searched for Jesus for three days in sorrow.

How does this rosary mystery explain our daily routine? Mary and Joseph’s assumption and lack of attention led to three days of worry, anxiety, and sorrow. I feel like many of us do this as well when we fail to start our day in prayer. When we don’t actively keep Jesus visible in our lives, from the moment we wake up to the moment we close our eyes, we bring unneeded anxiety and sorrow because we take our attention away from the one who can help us find true happiness.  Jesus wants nothing more than to help us and carry some of our burdens.  But we have to come to Him and ask.  Rember Luke’s Gospel:

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Luke 10:28-30).

 

Here’s my challenge to you.  Get up 10 minutes earlier than normal.  Spend that 10 minutes in prayer.  You don’t have to get out of bed but I do encourage you to sit up to avoid falling back asleep.  I bet your body can handle 10 minutes less sleep and your mind and soul will benefit from an extra 10 minutes of prayer.