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?

The Transfiguration and Selective Listening

Last Sunday, my parish priest gave a great homily on the Transfiguration. We pray and meditate on this event in the Fourth Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary. He focused on what God told the apostles, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” I’m going to focus on that last part about listening to Jesus. Or rather, all the ways we often don’t listen to Him. My priest classified people’s attention to Jesus’ message into three groups — those who are half deaf, half listening, and fully deaf.

Half Deaf

The first group are those who are “half deaf” or spiritually hearing impaired. These people hear God’s message but only process the “easy” parts. They hear that God loves them and will forgive them. But they don’t hear how they must take up their cross and follow Jesus. They don’t hear that they need to lead a life of conversion and can’t just live according to their own conscience if it’s not well formed. The half deaf sort of hear Jesus’ teachings but not all of it. They hear that Jesus loves them and think that’s enough to live however they want.

Half listening

This group picks and chooses the teachings they like or agree with. These people are similar to the spiritually hearing impaired. They hear Jesus’ teachings and may even be passionate about a few of them. They will even put in the hard work and bear their crosses if they need to. But they may completely disregard certain Church teachings they don’t like. You usually see this in so-called “social justice” Catholics who work hard helping the poor or persecuted but then support pro-abortion politicians and policies. And just to be fair, many pro-life Catholics will march every January to end abortion but then close their wallets to support social programs to help those in need.

Fully deaf

This group doesn’t hear Jesus’ message at all because the world drowns it out. Instead, they are completely tuned into the world as presented by popular media, late night talk shows, TV, movies, and politicians. They hear about Jesus’ message through various mediums that filter and distort His teachings. They don’t hear the authentic message of the Catholic Church but a fictional, stereotypical account of it.

Are you listening to Jesus or are you too busy capturing Pokémon?

Where do you fit in? Most of us fall into these categories at different points in our life. I know I probably lived days where I fell into all three of these groups. Lent is a great time to think about how well we are listening to God. Are we making an effort to truly hear Jesus’ message or filtering and distorting it? Now is a good time to read the Bible, encyclicals, and the Catechism and listen to how Jesus truly wants us to live. Approach Jesus’ teachings with an open mind and heart so that the Holy Spirit may work wonders in you. Finally, pray for everyone who experiences some sort of spiritual hearing impairment.

Jesus’ Miracles — Brining Joy to All of Us

I know this is a tad late given that the Sunday Gospel reading about the Miracle at Cana was several weeks ago. But the way I see it, we should be visiting this mystery at least once a week when we meditate on it in the Second Luminous Mystery. So any insight, no matter when it is given, should be valuable.

In his homily, my priest made a rather insightful observation about this Rosary mystery. Jesus’ miracle at the wedding at Cana was turning water into wine. In doing so, He saved the hosts from the embarrassment of running out of libations too early in the feast. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus’ first public miracle involved prolonging a celebration? It wasn’t healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, calming seas, or other more life-changing miracles. Essentially, Jesus kept the wine flowing to keep the party going. Jesus’ first miracle was bringing a little more joy into the world.

Joy is really at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. He came into this world so that we may better know God. Through Jesus, God was no longer this distant, impossible-to-understand entity. Rather, he was a human in Jesus. He ate with us, spoke to us, prayed with us, and celebrated with us. Jesus encapsulated all the love, peace, and joy already contained in God but presented it in a way we could understand. It’s no wonder that Jesus’ first miracle was keeping a celebration going because that was exactly why God manifested Himself through Jesus — so that we may continue to celebrate His peace and love. Jesus kept the party at Cana going by turning water into wine. But God kept the joy flowing by manifesting Himself as a human through Jesus Christ.

Remember the miracle at the wedding at Cana the next time you feel burdened by the Church’s “rules.” Remember that the heart of our faith is joy and happiness. Jesus didn’t come to oppress. He didn’t force anyone to love, honor, and celebrate with Him. So why all the rules? The rules help us better receive the joy that Jesus offers. Similar to how guests at a party need to act appropriately for all to enjoy themselves, we need to live in accordance with God’s laws to find the most joy. We can’t be party crashers — ruining the party God invites us to. We don’t want to cut ourselves off from genuine joy and happiness for that momentary yet shallow thrill of acting selfishly.

The next time your pray the Second Luminous Mystery, thank God for giving us the opportunity to embrace the genuine happiness that comes from fully living our Catholic faith.

Don’t Lose Your Moral Bearings in the Darkness

Imagine you’re a pilot flying alone on a completely dark night with no instrumentation.  Envision how hard it would be to know your altitude, your level, and whether or not you’re about to crash into something.  In total darkness, with no visibility and landmarks for reference, there is a good chance the airplane will crash and burn.

Keep that airplane analogy in mind as you read this article about the Glamor of Evil by Dr. Gregory Popcak.  We all know about how we should avoid committing sin. That’s Catholicism 101; easy stuff. But you can also be seduced by sin without actively participating in it.  He writes:

Evil is glamorous, not only in the sense that it can be hard to resist being drawn into it, but also in the sense that it can be hard to look away from it. If you aren’t careful, it’s tremendously easy to stare at it, and stare at it, and stare at it, until you can’t see anything else. Until everything good, and godly, and righteous, and beautiful has been drained from view, and all that is left is outrage, and anger, and indignation, and disgust.

Like the pilot alone in the dark, when we fixate on all the evil, darkness, and problems in this world we lose our moral bearings.  We can become disoriented in the darkness and start to lose hope, joy, and our faith.  We can no longer see the differences between good and evil because we’ve lost our spirital point of reference.  Our actions no longer seem to matter because we don’t see any goal or point to them.  Does it really matter what I do if everything is falling apart around me?

Being lost and aimless doesn’t usually end well.

Dr. Popcak tells us that we can’t let negative thinking completely envelop us.  Our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ should act like a shining beacon, even in our darkest hours.  The beauty and goodness of our faith can provide all the guidance we need to find strength, peace, and maybe even happiness, even when our world looks nonredeemable.

When Good Things Turn Us Bad

I’m going to go one step further. It’s not just evil that can completely block us from whatever is good and godly. Neutral activities can also do the same. Consider social media and the 24/7 cable news cycle. On their own, there’s nothing sinful about them.  They allow us to stay updated on recent events and connect with each other. But for many of us, these seemingly harmless pastimes can consume 100% of our attention leaving room for nothing else. And when your world is completely consumed by Twitter, Facebook, Fox News, and MSNBC, you can stop seeing the genuine good in the world. You will either see a carefully curated goodness that isn’t real or you will just see everything as bad and hopeless and fall into despair.

As we enter the season of Advent and Christmas, it’s important to not allow ouselves to fixate on what is ultimately unimportant. I know we want to buy presents, decorate our homes, and participate in all the other traditions associated with Christmas. But we can’t let the commercial side of Christmas blind us to the true meaning behind it. Because when you obsess over what to buy and what you want to receive, you leave yourself open to the sins of greed, envy, and even wrath. Want an example?  Look no further than the annual chaos around Black Friday and how people lose their moral bearings fighting over TVs and toasters.

The Rosary Connection

Look at the Fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration.  I’m talking about darkness and the light in this article.  Well, in this mystery you see Jesus’ clothes literally become dazzling white (Mark 9:3).  And that, of course, got the apostles’ attention.  When you meditate on this Rosary mystery, ask yourself, is Jesus a dazzling beacon of love, hope, and goodness in your life?  Does He shine brighter through the darkness keeping you morally oriented toward His teachings?  If not, maybe you need to turn around or take off your blindfold.  Jesus is always present in our lives.  If you don’t see that “light” in the darkness, ask Mary for guidance when you pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, Her Assumption.  She wants nothing more than to guide you through the darkness to Her son.

Also, when you pray the Third Joyful Mystery, think of the wise men traveling through the desert to pay homage to Jesus.  They would have been wondering around aimlessly and hopelessly if it weren’t for a star to guide them.  Again, you have a point of light, a referrence point, which guided the three wise men to Jesus. Are you following the signs in your life which lead you to Jesus?

Pope’s November Intention: Use the Language of Love

Pope Francis’ November intention is “In the Service of Peace: That the language of love and dialogue may always prevail over the language of conflict.”  Here’s a snippet of Deacon Ted Penton’s reflection on the pope’s message (the full article is found on Zenit).

Jesus didn’t allow Peter to defend him from an arrest by use of the sword. Nor did he call down legions of angels to save him from the Romans who tortured and executed him. Instead, he submitted to death on the cross. In some mysterious way, the Father used the death and resurrection of his Son for far greater purposes than any of his followers could have imagined. As Pope Francis eloquently stated, “In the silence of the cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken.”

This reflection ties in nicely with my previous post about the sin of pride and the virtue of humility.  I also called out Jesus’ Passion as a time of peaceful and humble acceptance of God’s plan for us.  Jesus showed us that humility is the language of love that Pope Francis refers to in his November intention.  Because when we are humble we let God speak through us.  His words are not filtered and drowned out by our pride.  They aren’t muddled by our limited human minds.  Even when our intentions are good, we still don’t possess the ability to see the “big picture” and construct the same language of love and dialogue that is as effective as God’s Word.

There’s another aspect of the November intention I want to discuss.  We can’t confuse peaceful dialogue with weakness.  All too often, we have this notion that love means letting others roll over us and do as they like.  But look at Jesus’ example.  He was all loving but He was certainly no pushover.  He was unrelenting in preaching God’s truth and never backed down.  He never told sinners that their actions were okay.  But He did teach them what God desired for them and forgave them.  He did this in a loving way that drew people closer, not further away.  We too should imitate Jesus.  We don’t shy away from preaching God’s truth but we must do it in a way that also shows God’s love.

Jesus forgives the adulteress.

When we pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom and Heaven and His Call to Conversion, let’s keep the pope’s November intention in our hearts.  Let’s remember to make an effort to convert any of our ways that create conflict into ways that create and foster God’s love.  It’s not an easy journey letting go of our almost instinctive nature to fight hostility with hostility.  But think about Jesus being scourged and how difficult it must have been for Him not to fight back in a hostile way.  Ultimately, Jesus “won” because humiliation, torture, and death was not the end.  He found the strength to endure all of that out of His love for us.  We pray the Rosary this month asking God for that same strength to see that it is love, not hate, that will ultimately win and convert souls.

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New Luminous Mystery Page

As much as I enjoy writing about the Rosary, I also want to provide helpful resources for when you are actually praying the Rosary.  I always wanted RosaryMeds to be a “hub” of Rosary knowledge.  I can’t come up with great insights into the Rosary mysteries on my own but I can gather all the great ideas other people have across the web and make them accessible in one place.

Take a look at the new Luminous Mysteries page.  For each mystery, it contains intentions, meditations, videos, and related articles.  What I hope is that you will visit this page and browse a little for some inspiration and new Rosary meditation ideas.  In the coming months, I also hope to provide similar pages for the other Rosary mysteries and update them regularly as I come across related web pages.

If you have comments and suggestions about what you would like to see on these pages or if you would like to see certain websites linked, please get in touch with me.  I would love to work on whatever you find useful.

Conquering Envy Through the Rosary

Let’s talk about sin, specifically, the seven deadly sins (also known as cardinal or capital sins).  Theologians in the early Church devised a list of sins that form the foundation for other sins.  Think of it like the taxonomy, or classification, of sinful behavior.  By reducing sin to a small list, teaching about sin and virtue became easier in the early Church because priests could teach people simple “do this, avoid that” style rules.  The seven deadly sins as we know them today were formalized by Pope Gregory I in 590 AD and later expounded by Saint Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica.  For those of you who never saw the movie Se7en, the seven deadly sins are:
  • gluttony
  • lust
  • greed
  • pride
  • sloth
  • wrath
  • envy
This article is going to focus on envy.  In the age of social media and instant communication with others, it’s so easy to suffer from envy.  We see people’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts about their fantastic vacations, cute families, crazy parties, and glamorous lives and it’s difficult to not feel envious.  We fixate on the nice car our neighbor bought or the slightly larger TV that is in his living room.  Unless you live in a completely isolated environment, it’s difficult not to see the blessings others have around you and not feel just a bit envious.

The Scriptural Connection

Of course, envy isn’t anything new.  In fact, envy plays a prominent role in the first book of the Bible when Cain killed his brother Abel.  Cain envied his brother because God favored Abel’s offering over his.  What I find interesting is God’s response to Cain’s anger: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance (mood) fallen? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” The Bible doesn’t say how much effort Cain put into his offering to God.  Maybe he held something back and didn’t put forth his best crops for God but kept them to himself.  Maybe Cain was lazy which lead to a small harvest.  God basically challenges Cain to do better and work harder.  But instead of accepting the challenge, Cain fixated on his brother’s good fortune to the point of murdering him. That is why envy, when not addressed, is such a deadly sin.  It can grow and spread like cancer.  It then cuts us off from others because all we see in others are our own desires.  We don’t see others as our fellow brothers and sisters but more like a store’s windows displaying what we want but cannot have.  It reduces people to the summation of their possessions.  Many of the deadly sins are interconnected since we can see envy being related with pride (everything centered around what I want), greed (always wanting more), and wrath (hatred because you have what I want).

The Rosary Connection

Father Ed Broom wrote an article on Catholic Exchange about what we can do to combat envy.  It’s worth a read.  But of course, the Rosary also teaches us about envy and how to fight it.  Let’s look at the Second Luminous Mystery — the Miracle at the Wedding at Cana.  What does that have to do with envy?  Let’s consider God’s miracles and blessings.  When others receive them, are you happy for them or do you envy them?  For me, one person’s unexpected blessings can bring about feelings of envy and resentment.  I ask why other people have all the good fortune.  Or, why has God saddled me with more hardship than someone else? Of course, feeling envious is the wrong way to look at God’s blessings and miracles.  To start, someone receiving a miracle or blessing doesn’t take any blessings away from you.  God’s grace is not a zero-sum game where someone receiving grace deprives someone else of his.  God has infinite power and hence, can dole out infinite grace.  When others encounter miracles, Father Broom says we should thank God for all the blessings and miracles He performs in our lives.  Yes, we may not have the cushy job, a huge bank account, a nice car, or a great phone.  But we are alive and able to praise God by living the day as virtuously as possible.  God gives us the miracle of a new day of infinite possibility.  Don’t squander it by being envious of others. Let’s also look at the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation.  Each Rosary mystery has an associated “fruit.”  You can think of fruits like the lesson taught in each mystery.  For the Visitation, the fruit is “Love thy Neighbor.”  Of course, loving your neighbor is the opposite of envying or being jealous of your neighbor.  Father Broom states that praying for those whom you envy will help fight that envy.  It does this by taking that sinful fixation and transforming it to a healthy one.  Your focus is on asking God to help you instead of being jealous of others.  Fighting envy difficult, but so was traveling to Elizabeth’s home for Mary.  She did it out of her love for her cousin.  We too must take up that difficult challenge of fighting envy with love, prayer, and kindness (which is one of the seven heavenly virtues that combats envy). [amazon asin=B004661J04,1928832431,1973519054,0898704383,B017HI0F5W&text=Amazon&template=carousel]

The Transfiguration and the Awe of Catholicism

Monday, August 6th, is the Feast of Jesus’ Transfiguration which we meditate on in the Fourth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary.  One question I’ve always had about the Transfiguration is why Jesus felt it was necessary.  After all, He had traveled throughout the region preaching God’s Word and healing people.  The apostles, for the most part, already believed He was the Messiah.  Why this extra revelation?  And what meaning does it have for the Catholic faithful today?

The Transfiguration was necessary, in part, because Jesus’ ministry had become routine to the apostles.  I bet they must have lost some of their sense of wonder and awe while ministering with Jesus.  They traveled from village to village listening to Jesus tell the same (or similar) parables, heal the sick, and occasionally admonish them for not understanding Him.  While Jesus’ miracles probably amazed them initially, they probably lost some of the awe over time.

Wait, what?  How could being witness to Jesus’ miracles lose their awe?  Well, let’s look at how many of us treat the amazing miracle of Mass.  How often do you fall into the Go to Mass, receive communion, repeat cycle?  At Mass, we are in the presence of Jesus, the same Jesus the apostles served with, and yet we’re probably already thinking about what donut we’ll get afterward or how we’ll spend the rest of the day.  The miracle that occurs during the consecration comes and goes for us without much thought similar to maybe how the apostles started seeing Jesus’ healings.

“Haven’t we, like, seen this show a hundred times already?”

And it’s not just Mass either.  Even if you have a more regular prayer life, it can also descend into a routine and lose its awe.  While I try to pray the Rosary every day, I admit that some days are better than others.  I can often pray an entire decade of the Rosary only to realize that I didn’t even consciously know what mystery I was praying.  I’m having a conversation with God and I’m thinking more about what I’ll have for dinner!

When Peter, James, and John witnessed the Transfiguration, it must have been a real wakeup call for them.  Maybe it snapped them out of any complacency they were feeling about their calling.  It took a great event to give them a needed kick and boost of energy

We don’t have Jesus physically transfiguring before us today.  Most of us will never have a direct apparition of Jesus, Mary, or the saints telling us what to do.  So how do we re-energize our spiritual zeal?  First, we need to admit when the miraculous blessings of our faith have become routine and resolve to re-ignite our passion.  Taking a cue from the Transfiguration, maybe we have to do something out of the ordinary.  Some ideas include:

  • Going to Mass on a weekday
  • Attending Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Joining a parish prayer group or organization
  • Finding new prayers to say
  • Reading a book or article either on a saint or written by a saint

It would be nice if Jesus personally invited us to something as wonderful as the Transfiguration.  And in a way, He does through prayer.  He offers Himself to us all the time but we have to be listening to Him in the silence of prayer and meditation (ehem… the Rosary!).  When we do listen, amazing things can happen whether it be a physical miracle or just a renewed zeal for living our faith.

The Pope’s August 2018 Intention — The Treasure of Families

Take a look at the news and ask yourself, do politicians generally support laws that promote or limit family freedoms?  What importance do current laws and legal rulings place on traditional family structures?  Think about rulings trying to redefine marriage, the limiting of rights parents have over how to best raise their kids, and just the overall societal devaluing of marriage’s role in promoting a stable, peaceful, and strong society.

In that light, here is Pope Francis’ intention for August 2018:

Universal – The Treasure of Families

That any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.

I think it’s obvious that governments in general, and individual politicians specifically, are acting increasingly more hostile to the traditional family ideal.  Much of it comes from politicians knowing that people need to be part of a close-knit unit.  But unfortunately for politicians, the original close-knit unit, the family, acts as a political ideological wall.  It acts like a wall because parents can act as a political filter and are usually a much closer role model for their kids.  But if politicians can chip away or tear down that wall, they know that people will seek the guidance from another community, one where the politicians wield more control — the government.

Politicians are human and have human weaknesses.  Many are greedy and seek increases in political power.  When they obtain that power, they want to keep it and grow it.  That endeavor becomes easier when they have more control over the population.  One such lever to increase control is to reduce the influence of a mom and dad.  In other words, as the independence of the family goes down, the influence of the government increases because it fills that decision-making, rule-enforcing vacuum.

Once again, we have the Catholic faith taking the now counter-cultural view of promoting the value of the traditional family.  In a world where there is a separation of church and state or an open hostility towards religion, then where else but the family will people learn and love God?  When Pope Francis asks us to pray for the protection of the family, he does so to our benefit and ultimate happiness.  It’s through the family that parents pass their love of God and the importance of faith to their children.  It’s that love of God and reliance on Him and His grace that people find strength and motivation to not only endure life’s challenges but prosper and find a meaningful peace.

The Rosary Connection

The Fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation in the Temple, is a wonderful Rosary mystery to reflect on the value of family.  In this mystery, Mary and Joseph impress the importance and value of living their faith and passing on those traditions to Jesus.  I find it interesting that of all the events in the Gospel, this one made the cut of being worthy of a Rosary mystery.  Our Mother Mary obviously wants us to understand the importance of family and sharing in God’s love with one another.  Following the pope’s intention, let’s remember to pray for politicians, economists, and employers as well in respecting the importance of family.

Remember, the pope is asking us to pray for a group of people (politicians) that are currently skewing in an anti-family direction.  We are essentially praying for a change of hardened hearts.  Pray for the people in power when you pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  Remember that Jesus’ message wasn’t always well received, especially by the authorities in the Sanhedrin because it challenged their power.  So too, does a free and independent family challenge modern politicians’ power.  After Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles also encountered a lot of hostility establishing the early Christian Church.  Saint Stephen was even martyred on the order of Jewish officials (Saul, later Saint Paul, being one of them).  We too are called to the same mission as the apostles — spreading Jesus’ teachings to everyone, especially the powerful who may be hostile towards them.

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.