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.

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).

Gospel for May 1, 2011 — Belief

Just Believe: ( John 20:29)
Image by Realistic Imaginations via Flickr

The Gospel for May 1, 2011 is from John 20:19-31 where Jesus appears to His apostles after rising from the dead.  Thomas, who was not there when Jesus appeared, did not believe the apostles’ claim since he had not seen Jesus personally.  This Gospel teaches the meaning and value of faith and how we are often like doubting Thomas where we do not see the wonderful works of Jesus in our lives.  Like the Second Luminous Mystery of the rosary, the Miracle at Cana, Jesus performs miracles all around us every day and yet we often overlook them.

When you pray the rosary think about spending some time thanking God for all He does for He performs both small and large miracles every day.  At Cana, Jesus turned water into wine.  But that seems almost trivial when you consider the miracle of your life.  Just the fact that you are alive is miracle enough.  After all, you came from nothingness, started life as a little group of cells, and are now a moving, breathing human being with the ability to spread so much joy and happiness in others’ lives.  Throw on top of that the friends and family God placed in your life.  If you are married, think about the fact that out of the billions of the people in the world and the centuries of human existence God placed you and your spouse together at this specific place and time.  Think about all the skills you posses whether they be physical or mental.  We should remember to thank God for even the small miracles of a sunny day or a comfortable bed to sleep in at night.

Despite all the miracles around us we act like Thomas in John’s Gospel.  Thomas needed to personally experience that BIG MIRACLE to believe in Christ’s resurrection.  He would not take others’ word for it.  We too often look only for only that big miracle in our life to truly believe and love Jesus.  We want the booming voice from the sky to speak to us.  We want to see a hand reach down from the clouds to prevent an almost certain disaster.  We want our prayers to win the lottery answered.  Unfortunately, we are often so blinded looking for that big miracle that we overlook all those other miracles that show God’s presence in our lives.  Like Thomas not believing the word of the other apostles, we often ignore or do not believe the teachings of the Catholic Church.  The message of the Gospel and the Second Luminous Mystery is to have faith and rejoice in EVERYTHING God does for us and not be disappointed because He does not perform a specific, big miracle.