A Church Asleep

We all want to do the right thing. We all want to be considered good people. But doing what is right and what is good has become a difficult, if not risky, lifestyle choice. In the aftermath of the Covid19 pandemic, we’re now experiencing what I’ll call the woke wave. We have groups trying to redefine what is right and good in ways that run counter to Catholic teachings. And while the Church has always been under assault, the Covid19 pandemic has weakened our ability to defend the truth.

Constance T. Hull, in her Catholic Exchange article, Christ’s Call For Us to Stay Awake, paints a rather bleak picture of the state of the Catholic Church. But you can’t deny her truthfulness. This Covid19 pandemic has weakened many of the faithful because we have lost touch with the cornerstone of our faith –– the celebration of the Eucharist in the Holy Mass.

COVID-19 has led many Catholics to wrongly believe that watching Mass on Sunday is good enough. I was saddened to see how abysmal the Easter turnout was at my own parish this year. The highest feast day of the year and there was plenty of room to spare at all of the Masses. This is what happens, however, when we spend a year telling people to stay home, or worse, that Mass isn’t a priority, but those shopping trips, family gatherings, group events, and even riots are acceptable over and above the sacramental life.

Constance T. Hull

The Importance of Catholic Identity

My wife and her family are from Poland. We joke that when you marry into a Polish family, you must become Polish yourself and raise your kids to embrace all things Polish. They express a strong cultural identity and sense of pride that rubs off on you. It was that identity that kept their culture alive when they weren’t a country and invaded by both Germany and Russia in the 20th century. Through hardship and sacrifice, they preserved their identity even when others tried to wipe it away.

I think the Catholic Church is under assault and many seek to wipe it off the globe. But the difference between the assault on Poland in the 20th century and the current assault on the Catholic Church is that Poland didn’t have smartphones and streaming video services. When armies march on your cities, you take notice and fight back. When there was a new season of The Mandalorian, we let the woke movement march right over us. We’ve become so pacified by our digital devices that many of us don’t realize that our faith is under attack. Poland had to face armies marching in and taking over its cities. The current attack on the Catholic Church is much more subtle but more dangerous.

Catholics are seeing the result of decades of soft teachings. We’ve been so afraid to talk about the truth that when the truth came under attack we didn’t know how to defend it. Worse, many of us didn’t even care to defend it. When was the last homily where you’ve heard your priest mention mortal sin, hell, the need to go to confession, the sanctity of marriage, and the Real Presence in the Eucharist? The Mass just became another streaming show on our phones and TVs and was one that many of us skipped in favor of The Queen’s Gambit.

A Church Asleep

Constance Hull compared the current situation to the apostles, asleep in the Garden of Gesthemenme while Jesus prayed before his crucifixion.

As He prays in agony to the Father, the Apostles fall asleep. Our Lord warns them to remain awake so they may not undergo the test. In other words, stay alert and spiritually prepare for we don’t know the hour of His return or testing. We don’t know exactly when persecution will come upon us and we as the Church will once more enter into Our Lord’s Passion. The Apostles continue to sleep despite Our Lord’s warnings for they were overcome with sorrow. The hour He repeatedly warns them about comes much quicker than any of them expect, so they flee.

Constance T. Hull

The world was unprepared when the pandemic first hit. We didn’t have the emergency infrastructure to combat it. We scrambled to find masks, ventilators, etc. Like the apostles, many Catholics were caught off guard too. Our spiritual infrastructure wasn’t prepared for the battles we now find ourselves in. We so readily embraced taking a vacation from our spiritual responsibilities that when the woke movement came in with their assault on core Catholic teachings, we were asleep like the apostles.

Your Rosary Meds

When you meditate on the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, ask yourself how you’ve been asleep this past year during the pandemic. Have you made an effort to go to Mass in person if you’re not in a high-risk group? Have you contributed financially to your parish if you have the means to do so? Have you put your faith in God’s ability to perform miracles in this pandemic?

Even if we’ve fallen short, we can take comfort in the fact that the apostles abandoning Jesus was part of God’s divine plan. Yes, it led to the physical tragedy of Christ’s death. But it also led to his glorious resurrection just as Jesus said it would and a renewed sense of faith in the apostles. Being asleep, physically in the garden, and then spiritually after abandoning Jesus became a wake-up call for the apostles. And wake up they did. They came back with renewed faith to evangelize and change the world.

Staying spiritually “awake” is challenging

Pray that we too, while we may have been asleep, like the apostles, during this pandemic, that we can bring the world back to Christ Jesus. We may have been scared like the apostles, but we also must have faith that all of this is part of God’s plan. The apostles needed to be asleep and abandon Jesus for God’s plan to manifest itself. And so we must have faith that all that is transpiring with the pandemic, the woke wave, and the assault of Catholic values will lead to an ultimate good that God has already mapped out for us.

What Shall We Do With Jesus the Messiah During Easter?

With Covid cases dropping in many places around the world and more people being vaccinated, I’m starting to hear how things will get back to normal again. Unfortunately, looking at the empty pews in the church at Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, for many people normal means going to Mass only at Christmas and Easter.

We aren’t the first ones to look at the post-Easter Sunday as a return to secular normalcy. Some of the apostles also believed that they would resume their lives prior to following Jesus. Peter talked about how he would go back to fishing (John 21:3). In a way, it did seem like Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were just a moment in time for the apostles much like how Easter Sunday comes and goes for many of us without a lasting effect.

Simon Peter told them, “I am going fishing.”

Of course, Easter Sunday isn’t just a single day of prayer and celebration before resuming our normal lives. In fact, the Easter season lasts 50 days. Much like how Lent is 40 days of preparation, Easter is 50 days of celebration! That should be 50 days of continual prayer, reading scripture, and giving thanks to God. It’s not a time to go back to normal and forget about God until Christmas.

The Rosary

I know you might find it strange meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries during the Easter season. But I think we can meditate on the Second Sorrowful Mystery and the question posed by Pontius Pilate. It’s a small question, but worth extra thought.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

Matthew 27:22

Pilate’s solution was to let the people crucify Jesus. In other words, get Jesus out of the way. By getting rid of Jesus, Pilate thought he would rid the world of his teachings so things can get back to normal. The Pharisees would stop being called hypocrites. They wouldn’t bother Pilate about matters of little interest to the Roman empire. The people would go back to following the Mosaic Law instead of following Jesus’ teachings and questioning the Pharisees.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

Many of us act the same way after Easter Sunday. We just want to get Jesus out of the way and return to the status quo. Maybe it’s because we’re fatigued from 40 days of Lent and fasting. Or perhaps you didn’t fast during Lent and don’t want the Easter season to continually remind you how you fell short of your goals. Or you don’t want to think about going to Mass every single Sunday, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, praying, and all that other stuff the Church “makes” us do. Some of us, even the most faithful, want to get Jesus out of the way because Jesus’ way is a difficult one.

In this season of Easter, let’s not think of our faith as a burden and something to be avoided. Put yourself in the shoes (or sandals) of the first disciples and think of the joy they must have felt when they learned that Jesus had risen. Were they confused and maybe a little scared? Probably. Did they immediately understand what it all meant? Not really. We may also be confused about what Jesus’ rising from the dead means to us. But like the early Church grappling with Christ’s resurrection, we have this whole Easter season to ask ourselves what we should do with Jesus.

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.

Are We Choosing Barabbas or Jesus?

Raising kids means witnessing actions that don’t make much sense. They often choose to fight over silly things, harass one another, and generally create chaos. When asked why one chose to hit the other, the response is all too common — “I don’t know.” Children seem to act on a more instinctual level. Not like us reasonable adults right? Think again. Adults are prone to making unreasonable choices every bit as foolish as children.

Consider those who chose to release Barabbas over Jesus. Often, we meditate on this event when we pray the Second Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary.

Mark 15:6-15 – Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested. A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion. The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed. Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?” They shouted again, “Crucify him.” Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

Rosary Meditations: The Sorrowful Mysteries | The Gregorian Institute at Benedictine College

Why Barabbas?

What good reason did the people have choosing to release Barabbas over Jesus? Let’s just take the two choices based on their outward qualities. First, we have Jesus, someone who healed the sick and raised the dead. He showed compassion towards sinners and was a voice for the common person. Then you have Barabbas, a murderer and insurrectionist. It seems like Jesus would have been the obvious choice if people gave their options some thought.

Maybe the people were scared of choosing to free Jesus because that would upset the Pharisees. Maybe they thought that the Pharisees would make their lives difficult and cast them out socially if they learned who voiced their support for Jesus. Some, while they may have liked Jesus, decided to go with the opinions of the learned Pharisees. And others maybe didn’t have any opinion about Jesus or Barabbas and just went with the crowd’s sentiment.

Why we Choose Barabbas

We may look back at the Gospel and wonder why the people made such a foolish decision. But, if we want to see foolishness, we don’t have to look any further than a mirror. How often do we choose to commit sin over following Jesus? We may say how we love Jesus and agree with the Church’s teachings, but then we get caught up in a moment and choose to do something sinful. We choose the “Barabbas option” and we don’t even know why most of the time.

I think many times, we simply like Jesus the same way we like someone’s Facebook post. It’s a very shallow affection for Jesus that is easily broken under a little pressure. Maybe it’s giving into peer pressure to do something wrong or going along with “the crowd” because you don’t want to be cast out of the group for thinking differently. When our knowledge and commitment to Jesus is weak, choosing to sin is all the easier.

Choosing Jesus

We need to build up our commitment to Jesus. This is why we need to pray every day, particularly the Rosary. We also need to read the Bible and Church teachings. We need to build that relationship to resist the temptations to sin, especially when it comes to resisting peer pressure. Our love for Jesus needs to be so strong that we would never think of choosing something that would damage our relationship with him.

Unfortunately, Catholics are in for a rocky time ahead as our world veers away from sharing Catholic values. We’re going to have hard choices to make. Who are we going to follow? Are we going to follow what is trending on social media? What’s being reported on the news? Are we going to blindly follow our political party? None of these are necessarily wrong, but we have to weigh what they want against what Jesus wants. We have to identify what options are like choosing Barabbas and what option is choosing Jesus. Because in the end, when we stand before God, He’s not going to accept an “I don’t know.”

The Value of Not Praying for Specific Outcomes

I’m going to talk briefly about politics. I know, I can hear the collective groan from you all because you’re sick and tired of everyone talking about the US elections. But please, stay with me as this ties into Rosary prayer and faith.

I can’t tell you who is going to win the presidency or which party will control the Senate after November 3. But one thing is certain — there will be a large group of people unhappy with the results because their side lost. And there were be others ecstatic because their side won. Some people will think their prayers were answered while others will ponder why God ignored them and would allow such an outcome. What is playing out in 2020 has happened thousands of times throughout human history.

Regardless of the winner, now is the time to learn this important lesson — we shouldn’t pray by asking God for a specific outcome to our concerns. That’s missing the point of prayer and reduces God to the role of a genie. Instead, we should ask God to give us strength, patience, and understanding to live with the outcome. The outcome of an election is manmade, but how we deal with it can be aided through God’s grace. God doesn’t favor one political party over the other. He sees all of us, whether we are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc. as His children.

Like a parent watching children quarrel over a toy, God will let us fight and argue without intervening in some large, magnificent way. Because from God’s perspective, what we argue about in this world isn’t all that important. Yes, even something as worldly important as the US 2020 general election isn’t significant universally. Who we choose as president of the United States is minuscule in importance compared to the state of one’s soul. That is what matters most to God and should be of the utmost concern to us.

It’s not that I don’t care about the outcome of the election. I do. And I’m concerned about the direction the United States could go in after this election. But when I meditate on the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, I think about Jesus in the garden asking God to let this cup pass over him. Jesus asks God to find a way for salvation that doesn’t involve pain and suffering. And I pray that the outcome of this election doesn’t result in increased hardship and suffering. But Jesus also said that he would do God’s Will. I too ask that I will remain faithful to God’s plan for me regardless of how the world changes.

Let’s also think about the Fifth Luminous Mystery and the institution of the Eucharist. In the Eucharist and Holy Mass, Jesus is present with us. No matter how the world changes and what hardships we encounter, He is with us. We can always find him in the Mass. He is always waiting for us in the stillness of a church to come and pray. Even if governments try to inhibit our ability to visit Christ in the Eucharist, it’s nothing the Church hasn’t endured before.

I know this is a big ask. But please don’t put all your energy and focus into an election. Don’t stake your happiness on a particular outcome. Don’t give Biden or Trump all-consuming power over your emotional wellbeing. Don’t be a slave to the 24-hour news cycle trapping you in an emotional whirlwind to bump up ratings. The sure bet is to put your faith in God. In other words, “vote” through your actions that you want to send your soul to Heaven. That is way more important than endlessly worrying about who we send to the White House.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Fortitude

Two great movies are “Touching the Void” and “Lone Survivor.” The former movie is a documentary about a mountaineer, Joe Simpson, who broke his leg at the summit of a difficult climb, fell off a cliff on his way down, and was assumed dead. And yet he managed to crawl down the mountain on one good leg back to camp where his climbing partner was able to get help. “Lone Survivor” is the story of Marcus Luttrell and a Navy SEAL mission gone bad. He crawled to safety with a broken back after a terrible gunfight with the Taliban killing everyone on his team.

What is remarkable about both these true stories is how hard they fought to stay alive without knowing how their situation would turn out. For all Joe knew, his climbing partner may have broken camp and left the area. His efforts to get crawl down the mountain may have been for nothing if there was no one left to get him to a hospital. For all Marcus knew, he could have crawled into a Taliban camp instead of a village willing to protect him. Both of them didn’t give up fighting although they had no idea whether their efforts were in vain.

That brings us to the next gift of the Holy Spirit — fortitude.  “Fortitude is the virtue that allows us to overcome fear and to remain steady in our will in the face of all obstacles, physical and spiritual. Prudence and justice are the virtues through which we decide what needs to be done; fortitude gives us the strength to do it. It show itself in moral courage against the evil spirit of the times, against improper fashions, against human respect, against the common tendency to seek at least the comfortable, if not the voluptuous.”(learnreligions.com).

I see fortitude as the strength to practice the Catholic faith in the face of uncertainty. We take it on faith that all the prayer, sacrifices, and restraint leads to a closer relationship with God and eternal happiness in Heaven. And while we may know this, it can be hard to muster the strength to practice it on a daily basis. We don’t always feel close to God. It’s this gift that reminds us not to give up doing God’s Will.

Fortitude in the Rosary

Look at Jesus in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. I know I’ve mentioned this point several times in the past, but He fell three times and got back up knowing that his situation was never going to improve. Just think about the strength Jesus had to posses to look past his physical pain and see the greater role God had for Him. Jesus knew that God’s Will was not to have Him die on the road. But that meant Jesus had to summon the courage to get up and follow God’s Will to His Crucifixion so that he could triumph through His Resurrection.

We must look at Jesus’ example of fortitude in our own lives. Let’s face it, being a Christian isn’t always easy or fun. We are saddled with our crosses. Prayer doesn’t always seem fruitful. Fasting doesn’t seem beneficial. Following God’s laws isn’t always a joy. Making this more difficult is that we don’t receive immediate feedback. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see our heavenly scorecard whenever we practice virtue or sin? But it’s the gift of fortitude that allows us to carry on, like Jesus taking up His cross, in the face of uncertainty. When you pray any of the Sorrowful Mysteries, meditate on how faith requires fortitude because we need to do God’s Will without immediate, concrete feedback.

We must also remember that fortitude isn’t just about summoning courage for the “big things.” We all aren’t called to be martyrs or overcome some momentous challenge. We must show fortitude in the small things too. That means remembering to pray every day, attend Mass, receive the sacraments, fast, and live chastely. These aren’t easy. Sure, we may be able to muster the strength on our own some days. But in order to do God’s Will consistently, we need this gift from the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we’ll just get worn out, dejected, and give up. It’s this gift of fortitude which gives us that “second wind” to keep going even when we think we have nothing left to give.

Include God in Your Suffering

My interest in ClickToPray ebbs and flows. Currently, it’s flowing and I’m using it to pray daily. The daily prayers are easily digestible and provide good ideas for further reflection. This morning’s prayer had a typo which at first confused me and then got me thinking. Without the typo, I probably wouldn’t have given this prayer much further thought. But with it, I started thinking about whether I’m including God in my daily struggles and triumphs.

I give thanks to the Lord for this new day, for this new week. All of these are opportunities for Christ to come to me, to receive his Spirit. In the face of situations of suffering that I do not understand and have difficulty accepting, I ask the Lord not to stay with me. I know that in your presence I will find peace. I offer my day for the Pope’s intention for this month. Glory Be…

https://clicktopray.org/august-3-morning-2/

It’s the “I ask the Lord not to stay with me” that contains the mistake. I’m sure the author probably meant to type “now” instead of “not.” But let’s consider the sentence as written. Ask yourself how many times, in the face of suffering, do you ask God not to be by your side? We may not tell God explicitly to go away, but we also might not ask Him to stand by us either. In other words, maybe we ignore God as we go about our business. We go to FaceBook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and maybe our family to voice our frustration in a cry for help. But how often do we include God with the challenges we face?

After reading this I thought about Jesus in the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. I thought about His example of how we should act in the face of difficulty and suffering. Jesus didn’t complain to His disciples or vent about how he was being unfairly treated. Instead, Jesus asked God for the strength to do His Will. And while God didn’t save Jesus from a gruesome crucifixion, He gave Jesus the strength to endure.

The next time you’re facing a challenge or suffering, remember to include God in your circle of friends and family. Ask Him for help. It may not change the situation, but God may change the way you approach that situation. As the daily prayer says, He will give you peace.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Knowledge

Some of us, when confronted with a crisis, know what to do. Think about emergency personnel like paramedics, nurses, and doctors. When there is a medical emergency, they jump into action. If they are at a restaurant and someone collapses, they jump in and help. Other people, while wanting to help, freeze up. Will they make the situation worse by getting involved? Are they able to make the right decisions in that situation? It’s not that their inaction means they don’t care. It’s just that they don’t know what to do.

The ability to act correctly, especially in spiritual matters, is another gift from the Holy Spirit — the gift of Knowledge. It “enables a person to judge rightly concerning the truths of faith in accordance with their proper causes and the principles of revealed truth” (Catholic Straight Answers). While the gift of wisdom is the desire to follow God’s Will, knowledge is the ability to do so. If the gift of understanding is the “why” behind following God’s Will, think of knowledge as the “how.” Even more than just knowing what to think, do, or say, knowledge is also the confidence that what you’re doing is in line with God’s Will. I see so many people on the Catholic Answer Forums asking, “Did I do the right thing when I …?” Knowledge reduces that doubt and scrupulosity.

Knowledge in the Rosary

Consider the Third Luminous Mystery of the RosaryThe Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion. With the gift of knowledge, we can see what comes from God’s Kingdom of Heaven and what does not. We then can make good, knowledgeable decisions to embrace what is Heavenly. If our current desires are for what is earthly, then using knowledge to change our priorities is the process of conversion. When you pray the Third Luminous Mystery, ask yourself whether you are seeing what is Heavenly and making decisions to embrace them.

Next, consider the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary — The Carrying of the Cross. Think about how many people stood by and watched Jesus carry His cross. Many of them might have wanted to help Jesus but they didn’t know how or they were afraid of what the soldiers might do. However, Veronica found the inspiration and courage to stand out from the crowd to wipe Jesus’ face, giving Him a moment of relief.

One of the ways the gift of knowledge manifests itself is knowledge of how to help others in spiritual matters. Many times, we want to help others when we see them struggle or when they are in despair but we don’t know what to do. We are like the onlookers during Jesus’ passion. The gift of knowledge will help us know the right things to say or do. We will be like Veronica — inspired to find a way to help others in need.

Finally, consider the Fourth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Assumption. I’ve always said how the Assumption was a sign of God’s special plan for Mary after her earthly death. And that plan was for her to guide us to her Son, Jesus Christ. She guides us in acquiring knowledge of Jesus and His love for us. God has provided us so many tools so that we may know Jesus — the Mass, the Bible, sacred tradition, and countless documents. And we also have guides like Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the saints to help us better know Jesus.

Inspired by Mary and the saints, we should take the opportunity to better know Jesus. We should read the Bible, papal encyclicals, and the Catechism to cultivate our knowledge of our faith. Our small investment in learning our faith will then be compounded by the Holy Spirit and our Mother Mary. With that knowledge, we will be able to better discern what is Heavenly and what is not and take comfort in the fact that choosing what is Heavenly will lead to ultimate joy and peace in God’s grace.

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.

Showing Humility in Times of Crisis

In my previous article on humility, I quoted Fr. John Tauler about how Mary was an empty vessel ready for God to pour His grace into Her. I’m going to continue discussing humility as I believe we are living through events that are calling us towards greater humility. And through greater humility, we can find peace in God’s grace.

On DesiringGod, David Mathis talks about how the early Christians practiced humility through trials and persecution. He says:

We don’t teach ourselves to be humble. There’s no five-step plan for becoming more humble in the next week, or month. Within measure, we might take certain kinds of initiatives to cultivate a posture of humility in ourselves (more on those in a later article), but the main test (and opportunity) comes when we are confronted, unsettled, and accosted, in the moments when our semblances of control vanish and we’re taken off guard by life in a fallen world — and the question comes to us: How will you respond to these humbling circumstances? Will you humble yourself?

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-do-i-humble-myself

I like the idea that humility doesn’t happen in a vacuum; that there needs to be some sort of outside source prompting us to respond with humility. In other words, it’s easy to think we are humble if there are no outside factors forcing us to act otherwise. Right now, there is a huge outside factor forcing people to choose whether or not to act humbly — Covid19. How can we use this current pandemic to respond to Jesus’ call to humility?

Previously, I discussed how our pride can fill our hearts and minds leaving no room for God’s grace.  Humility is accepting that we need God in our hearts if we’re to find true peace and happiness.  But it’s not just a pride-filled heart that can block us from living humbly.  Our fears and anxiety can block God just as easily as pride.  We need to avoid letting our fears build in a way that leads us to believe that we face these challenges alone or God is powerless to intercede.

Covid19 is the factor that really tests our humility.  It’s easy to say we’re humble when there’s no challenge.  But when there is widespread fear and panic, we now need to make a choice.  How much are you going to let fear and anxiety occupy your heart and mind and how much are you going to leave open for God to work within you?

I know many people ask in these uncertain times, why doesn’t God do something?  And we all look to the sky hoping that God will just make this virus disappear.  But looking for a global miracle may be missing the point.  We should instead be looking internally and seeing how God is working with us individually.  This is our opportunity to build our relationship with God through prayer and letting Him work in us and through us to build true happiness. Let’s not look only for a worldwide miracle in this time of hardship but also for the greater miracle of God’s grace transforming a humble and willing heart.

Look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane which we pray in the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary.  Jesus was afraid of what was to come.  But he didn’t let that fear entirely consume Him.  He took His situation as an opportunity to turn to God in prayer.  Jesus was humble enough to understand that He wasn’t facing His crucifixion alone and was left to His own devices to find a way through it.  Instead, Jesus put his faith in God’s plan for Him to see Him through.  Similarly, we should remember that our lives are ultimately in God’s hands, not our own.  That should actually give us a sense of peace knowing that an all-loving God ultimately is in control, not a virus and society’s response to it.

Remember, the Covid19 virus is a mix of biology and chemistry.  It is just one of many diseases or natural phenomena to worry about.  It’s also one of the many ways we can become distracted and not achieve the full humility that God asks of us.  At least Covid19 has our attention while many of the other distractions in our lives can go unnoticed.  Now that it has our attention, ask yourself whether you’re going to allow it to spark an interest in making yourself more humble by making more room in your life for God to work in you.