Rosary Prayer as a Process

When I look around my house, I see all sorts of bins filled to the top with toys and games. They belong to my boys and they’ve accumulated them over years of Christmases and birthdays. And besides the initial week or two of excitement, many of them go untouched for months. My thought is that because most of their toys are gifts, they don’t have any real emotional investment in them. But God help me if I throw one of their drawings or worksheets into the recycle bin. I’ve had to empty entire trash bins looking for my son’s random stick figure drawing or worksheet.

My little parenthood story outlines a greater insight into human behavior. We tend to value things more as we invest more in them. That could be an investment of time, money, memories, emotional energy, etc. What about our faith? Does the value of our faith increase the more time we spend in prayer? I certainly believe it does. And I’m sure those of you who pray the Rosary daily will attest to that as well. God designed faith as a process that we work on our entire lives.

Why does God choose to make our faith a multi-step process and not something more instantaneous? Why did Jesus heal certain people one at a time and not the entire world in one fell swoop? Or why do miracles come to a few and not to everyone who requests them? Like anything important, there’s value in the process. Things that are just given to us with no effort on our part aren’t as valuable as the things we work hard for.

When we make an effort to develop our faith, it becomes more valuable. Jesus didn’t come into this world to just give away faith. He knew that people wouldn’t value it if He did. Instead, He showed the benefits that came from having a deeper faith almost as a way of encouraging people to work harder at it. Remember, God gave us free will to choose whether to follow Him or not. But that’s not a binary decision. We also have the freedom to choose how much effort we want to put into our relationship with God. Hopefully, through Jesus’ teachings and example, we know that it’s important to invest in our faith development because it’s worth it.

In his article, No Soul is Too Far Gone, Francis Chan writes this about the power of perseverant prayer when he talked about praying for 30 years for the conversion of his childhood friend. Not only did the target of the prayers benefit when he was eventually baptized, but so did the person doing the praying as his faith must have grown through 30 years of prayers and intentions.

There is tremendous power in perseverant prayer. God is not like us; he is not bothered by his children asking for the same thing over and over. He is pleased by the faith demonstrated when we pray and pray for someone to be saved.

When we understand the consequences of rejecting Christ, and we are filled with love for another human being, persistent prayer should be the natural response. To this day, I still have questions about how the decreed will of God meshes with the effectiveness of my persistent prayers. For now, I’m more than content to obey and pray. Though I’m still uncertain how it works, I have seen it work. Meditate with me on Luke 18, trust the words of Christ, and then pray with sincerity and expectation.

Looking at the Rosary, I think about the Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation in the Temple. I think of Saint Simeon, a pious man whom the Holy Spirit promised would see the Messiah before his death. And while it doesn’t say how long he waited, I always picture it being many years. In that time he must have prayed regularly building up his faith in God’s promise. How much stronger was Saint Simeon from a lifetime of devout prayer than if God had immediately fulfilled His promise?

In the eyes of God, even the oldest and wisest are like infants. We must seem like babies whenever God hears us complain about why He’s not answering our prayers. What we do not see or understand is that He does hear us and answers our prayers. But it’s according to His plan, not ours. It’s by His timeline, not ours. We must understand that we often need time to grow and mature in our faith. And when we put in that time and effort, we see that God answers our prayers in a manner far better than if we would have received it immediately.

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.

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.

Defeating Pride With The Rosary

The next of the seven deadly sins we’re looking at is pride.  Many consider pride the worst of the seven deadly sins and also the foundation of the other sins.  Pride means putting your wants and importance before anyone else’s authority.  And what is a sin?  It’s putting your desires in front of what God wants.  When we sin, we knowingly act without regard to the consequences because we don’t accept any other law beyond our own.  According to C.S. Lewis, it’s pride that leads to every other type of sin because it’s the anti-God state of mind.

Pride is so deadly because, by its very nature, it remains hidden.  As Fr Dwight Longenecker puts it in his article on Catholic Exchange:

This is why pride is so deadly, because it is the one sin that hides itself so effectively. The proud person, by very definition, does not realize he is proud. If he realized he was proud he would repent, but it is pride which keeps him from seeing that he is wrong or sinful in any way. Pride is a very difficult sin to do anything about because the proud person will even go so far as to admit that he is proud, and that makes him even more “right” than he was before!

The Scriptural Connection

Look at how blinded the Pharisees were by their own pride that they could not accept Jesus’ teachings.  They dwelled on their own self-importance and their understanding of God and the Law that they couldn’t accept the teachings of a poor carpenter from Nazareth.  They criticized everything Jesus and His apostles did from breaking certain Mosaic laws to ministering to sinners; acts their pride did not allow them to do.  So indebted to their pride that the Pharisees didn’t even come to believe after witnessing Jesus’ countless miracles.

We turn next to Saint Paul, or rather Saul before his conversion.  Saul was a Roman Jew who persecuted the early Christians.  He was so blinded by pride that he refused to accept the teachings of the apostles to the point of killing them (poor Saint Stephen).  Saul justified what he was doing by claiming it was God’s work.  In reality, he was just keeping the status quo where the power of the Law was taught and enforced by those who believed they were important and holy enough to wield it.  Ironically, God physically blinded Saul on the road to Damascus to humble him.  That event led to his conversion.  Once a humble servant of God, Paul was able to preach God’s Word throughout the world because he could let go of his own self-importance.  He teaches to this very day through his various letters in the New Testament.

The Rosary Solution

Humility is the heavenly virtue that counters pride.  The humble heart thinks of others and understands and appreciates others’ talents and strengths.  It also allows us to put our faith in God by recognizing His authority over us.  The humble heart accepts Gods law while the prideful one fights and rebels against it.

Humility is the fruit of the First Joyful MysteryThe Annunciation.  Mary proclaims, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) when hearing God’s plan for her.  She doesn’t consider herself high and mighty as a prideful person would.  She doesn’t see God choosing her as some sort of award or even something to brag about.  Instead, she sees herself as the humble servant called to do God’s Will.  She doesn’t complain about God messing up her life’s plans.  Instead, she realizes that God’s plan is the best plan even if it’s unconventional.

Humility also shows itself in the Third Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Crowning of Thorns.  It is a time when Jesus is mocked or tortured.  At that time, He could have proven Himself as the Son of God by performing any number of signs.  Jesus could have said that He didn’t have to take any more abuse from lowly humans since He was the Messiah.  But Jesus humbly lived out God’s Will by enduring mockery and torture.  Humility sometimes means suffering in doing what is right instead of constantly asking “Why me?  Am too good for this type of treatment.”  We should take Jesus’ example in the Third Sorrowful Mystery and always accept God’s plan for us even when it’s difficult or doesn’t make sense.

Ask yourself, are you humbly accepting God’s plan for you or is your pride causing you to rebel against Him?  Are you depressed or saddened because you have a hard time accepting God’s Will?  Ask yourself, is that your pride talking?  Humility isn’t something to fear.  It means greater freedom and comfort knowing that you are putting your life in the hands of some greater authority.  And what better authority to place your life than our loving God and His Church?

Coping with the Church Scandal One Rosary Bead at a Time

Have you read the book or seen the movie, The Martian?  It’s a story that takes place in the future where a man is stranded on Mars after his crew leaves believing he is dead.  In this story, the stranded scientist, Mark Watney, overcomes all sorts of challenges to stay alive.  It’s one of those stories where everything that can go wrong does go wrong  — storms, failed equipment, communication issues, etc.  But he just works each problem as it came along to survive just one more day.

I think the Church is in a similar situation — everything that seems like it can go wrong is going wrong regarding the abuse scandal and accusations of coverups going up to the pope himself.  The Church is in uncharted territory right now.  We have a retired pope who may have known something about the Cardinals’ abuses who is silent on the matter.  We have a sitting pope who is remaining silent.  We have all sorts of insider leaks pointing to spiritual rot at high levels.  It’s enough to make the strongest of us doubt that the Church will come out of this in a better state.

As individuals, we can’t do much regarding the Church scandals inside the Vatican.  But like Mark Watney facing countless setbacks trying to survive on Mars, we will also face setbacks in the coming months as more news comes out.  The key is not to get overwhelmed and abandon those who need our prayers the most.  We can’t make this a “Vatican-only” issue.  It’s a problem that all the faithful need to do our part.  We just need to take each day in turn and live the best Christian example we can.

Charlie Johnston puts it well in his blog, A Sign of Hope, when he talked about the need to deal with reality before us, not how we want or expect it to be:

You are going to fail at some things, you are going to be wrong about some things, some of your cherished certainties are going to fall. Your faith is dependent on none of these things and your duty is not suspended because of your errors. If your faith is dependent on your certainty that you have it all figured out, it is just a subtle form of pride – and you know what pride goeth before. Follow the example of King David who, after he sinned grievously of his own fault, got up again at the behest of the prophet and lived his duty, even so. You will fail, you will err, you will sin of your own fault. God knows all of this. He waits to see whether, after each failure, you will get up and start again, humbly living your duty with steadfast resolve even though your fault is ever before you – thus trusting to Him, and not to your own virtue.

Charlie’s words remind me of the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus Carries His Cross.  Jesus fell multiple times under the cross.  Each time He resolved to get back up again and do God’s Will.  He fell under the weight of sin too, our sins.  But Jesus found the strength to not get discouraged about the seemingly hopeless situation He was in and did not give up.  His will to follow through with God’s plan was greater than the pain He felt.  Jesus got back up and completed God’s work one painful step at a time.

And so we too, are called to keep going and live our Catholic faith.  It will be difficult at times when we hear about what is happening inside the Vatican.  But, like I said in my previous article, our faith isn’t dependent on the virtue of men.  It lies on the power and virtue of God Himself.  Pray the Rosary and imagine each bead being one slow (sometimes painful) step out of the darkness and into God’s grace.

The Archbishop of San Francisco wrote a letter about the Church scandal.  In it, he outlines a 3-step plan to keep us moving forward and repair the damage caused by the Church hierarchy.  He asks for:

  1. Praying the rosary daily – and for families, to pray the rosary as a family at least once a week;
  2. Practicing Friday penance by abstaining from eating meat and one other additional act of fasting (e.g., another form of food or drink, or skipping a meal);
  3. Spending one hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament at least once a week

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.

The Power of the Pompeii Rosary Novena Part 2

In my first article about the Pompeii Rosary Novena, I discussed what I learned about Rosary prayer from a tactical standpoint.  I discussed my strategies for finding time to pray 15 mysteries every day and its benefits.  In this article, I’m going to discuss whether Mary responded to my 54 days of Rosary prayer.  I prayed this novena asking Mary to intercede on behalf of people in my life who have chronic illnesses.

The big question is, were the people whom I prayed for cured?  Yes, but not in the way you may imagine.  I learned that there are more ways to cure the sick than just physically.  The people I prayed for have gotten marginally better, but not miraculously cured of their physical ailments.  Naturally, I hoped that they would be in that select group of people who experienced a miraculous physical cure as a result of the Pompeii novena.  But that was not God’s plan, at least not yet.

I’ve come to realize that a physical healing is not necessarily the point of a novena.  I know that Mary heard my petition and that Jesus is comforting them in His grace.  The physical illnesses may still be there but so is the increased strength and courage to endure.  God, in His infinite wisdom, decided that a miraculous physical healing is not what is needed in this case.  And while that would have been great and I still hope and pray for one, I also understand that God applies His grace uniquely to every situation.

Now the cynic would claim that I’m just rationalizing God’s inaction and that I really just wasted my time over the last 54 days.  But I’m sure many people would be cynical of the Pompeii novena even if there was a physical cure.  They would say it was good science and medicine and prayer played no part.  There are some people with such a hardened heart that even the greatest miracles wouldn’t change them, let alone the more subtle ones.  That is why we must keep the hardened-hearted cynics in our prayers too; for they benefit from them whether they admit it or not.

God’s response to my novena reminds me of Jesus’ crucifixion (Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary) where the criminal asks Jesus to remember Him.  Jesus’ response was that that criminal would join Him in paradise (Luke 24:43).  Here you have the criminal in a terrible situation reaching out to Jesus similar to how we reach out to Him in prayer.  Jesus didn’t miraculously bring the criminal down from the cross.  But that doesn’t mean Jesus did not respond to the man’s plea.

Jesus gave the criminal something much more important than physical relief from his dire situation and that was His grace and the promise of Heaven.  While I’m sure the criminal would have been grateful if Jesus had physically rescued him from the cross, that physical saving would have paled in comparison to what Jesus actually gave the criminal.  Because no physical saving can compare to the promise of Heaven brought about by one’s faith in Jesus Christ.

Like the criminal on the cross, I have faith that Mary, Jesus, and God the Father heard my plea to remember those in my life who are ill.  While God didn’t bring them down from their “crosses” by physically healing them, I know that my prayers will help them obtain graces and spiritual healing.  And ultimately, that is more important than any temporary physical cure.  Because all physical cures are temporary because our lives in this world are temporary.  It’s our souls that live on for all eternity.  When it comes to tradeoffs, a healed soul always wins over a healed body.

Thus ends my Pompeii novena experience for this year.  But it won’t be my last.  I will turn back to it when I know people who are in dire need of some sort of healing.  Or, if my energy to pray the Rosary starts to wane, the Pompeii novena is a great way to jumpstart it again.  It’s like going through spiritual boot camp.  Remember, Mary does hear your petitions.  But you must be open to how she intercedes for you and how God responds.

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.

Come to Jesus in the Eucharist Prepared

I came across an article about how to best prepare to receive the Eucharist at Mass.  I thought it was timely since the pope’s June intention revolves around the idea of fostering respect.  I mentioned in my last post how we not only have to respect each other but we also have to respect Jesus Christ.  And there is no better way to respect Jesus than receiving Him in the Eucharist in the fullest and most reverent manner possible.

The Catholic Exchange article breaks down Eucharistic preparation into ten items.  Please read the article for a full explanation.  For the TL;DR crowd, they are:

  1. Practice your faith
  2. Appreciate the gift of the Eucharist
  3. Confess your sins
  4. Do not arrive late to Mass
  5. Show reverence
  6. Have intentions
  7. Participate in the Mass
  8. Keep a Marian heart
  9. Show thanks
  10. Be a Eucharistic apostle

I liked how the CE article made comparisons to the Mass and Eucharist to attending a party or some other social event.  Typically, we try not to be late, we thank our hosts, we dress appropriately, and we respect the venue.  And yet, many times we don’t extend that same level of courtesy when it comes to receiving Christ in the Eucharist.  We sometimes come to Mass late, zone out during the readings and prayers, stand in line at Communion thinking about other things, and receive the Eucharist almost mechanically.

Being respectful isn’t easy.  If it were, we would be respectful more often.  Respect takes work often at the cost of personal convenience.  It’s hard to focus on prayers during Mass, to set aside time on a weekend to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to continue praying as you walk up the aisle for Communion, and to pray in thanksgiving when you come back to your seat.  But if we truly understood that there is literally nothing on Earth more valuable than the Eucharist, we would be horrified to even consider receiving Jesus without making our best effort to prepare ourselves.

Here’s my item #11 to add to the list of Eucharistic preparation.  Pray the Rosary regularly.  Ask Mary to help increase your faith and understanding of the great gift Her Son offers us.  Ask Her how you can most worthily accept Jesus during Communion.  Showing faith in the power of the Rosary prepares us for the faith we need to fully accept Jesus in the Eucharist.