“The passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the hope of glory and a lesson in patience. ..”

Once again, as Simeon had predicted, Jesus is a sign of contradiction presented with the miracle of the raising of Lazarus; some people believe in Jesus, and some denounce Him to His enemies –confirming what is said in the parable of the rich man: “neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”.
The fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction is nowhere more evident than in John’s gospel, especially in the scene of today’s Gospel. There can hardly be any clearer example of the madness in the heart of sinners, or of their desperate enmity towards God, than what is recorded here.

It is a fact of life that, whenever people seek to escape calamity by committing sin, they end up bringing calamity down upon their own heads. Goodness always wins out in the end; and the madness of the wicked always comes back to haunt them. That is exactly what happened with the Pharisees after the suffering and death of Jesus.
We may be horrified that anyone would go to such limits to silence someone, who has pointed out faults or who has called them to repentance; but the truth is that sometimes we also avoid confrontation with the truth. It may be that we go to great lengths to avoid feeling the pangs of conscience.
Remember,supported by their faith in Jesus and displaying like courage in the face of their adversaries, Christians across the ages have witnessed to the Good News, even to the shedding of their blood. They died not simply of something, as we all do, but for something. As we approach the end of Lent and are about to enter into Holy Week, we might well ask ourselves whether, if we were charged with being a Christian, there would be compelling evidence to convict us. We should now renew our repentance and allow ourselves to feel the anguish that Jesus felt in knowing what pain lay ahead of Him in the manner of His passion and death.

Despite such act, Jesus reminds us again that, that cross He accepts and carries to save us and bring us back again to life. On the positive sense of the Caiaphas prophesy, Jesus let Himself be crucified to fulfill the will of the Father. Through the death of Jesus on the cross, all the people will be gathered again as one nation of God. Jesus embraced His passion and death that in the end, we will be worthy again of heaven through His resurrection. We, being scattered by sin, will be united again to the Father as we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. Augustine wrote: “The passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the hope of glory and a lesson in patience. ..He loved us so much that, sinless himself, he suffered for us sinners the punishment we deserved for our sins. How then can he fail to give us the reward we deserve for our righteousness, for he is the source of righteousness? How can he, whose promises are true, fail to reward the saints when he bore the punishment of sinners, though without sin himself? Brethren, let us then fearlessly acknowledge, and even openly proclaim that Christ was crucified for us; let us confess it, not in fear but in joy, not in shame but in glory.”


One can argue with words, but deeds are beyond argument.

Jesus made a series of claims, which were at the heart of His life and mission. His claims challenged the very foundation of the Pharisees’ belief and understanding of God. First, He claimed unique knowledge of God. He claimed that the only way to full knowledge of the mind and heart of God was through Himself. He also claimed total obedience to God.
The religious leaders so upset with Jesus that they wanted to kill Him. They charged Him with blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God and He made Himself equal with God. The Law of Moses laid down the death penalty for such a crime: “He who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall be put to death; the entire congregation shall stone him”.
As they were picking up stones to hurl at Him, He met their attack with three arguments. The many good works that He did, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, and feeding the hungry — demonstrated that they obviously came from God. Jesus challenged His opponents to accept his works if they could not accept his words. One can argue with words, but deeds are beyond argument.

In Jesus alone we see what God wants us to know and what He wants us to be. Jesus was not just a man who came, lived, died, and then rose again. He is the immortal timeless one, who always was and always will be. In Jesus, we see the eternal God in visible flesh. His death and rising make it possible for us to share in His eternal life.
We must ask ourselves whether or not we live in the hope and joy of the resurrection. Oftentimes, those who are deaf to the praises of the world, have to bear its contempt. But we need never worry: God seeks the honor of all those, who do not seek their own. We should always be unafraid to profess steadfastly all we know and believe concerning Christ.

To believe in Christ is to depend on Him, with hope and trust, to save us from sin and hell

What our Lord is teaching in today’s Gospel reading is the freedom from the bondage of sin, from which only the truth of the Gospel can liberate us. Jesus is teaching us that if we abide by His Word, the Holy Spirit will empower and guide us to live our lives according to God’s will. Let us use our free will to uncover all the truths that we need to learn and are available to us in Scriptures. Let us not be deceived by the lures of this earthly kingdom that are temporal and subject to corruption. After all, we cannot pursue the world’s pleasures and remain in God’s Word at the same time.

Jesus was speaking of spiritual freedom, the freedom from sin and alienation from God. Many of us are not far removed from the error of the Jews in Jesus’ time if we think freedom means being independent, possessing the power of choice to do “whatever I wish to do as I please.” This is certainly not the kind of freedom that Jesus was teaching, because this form of liberalism only leads us away from the truth.

Spiritually, all of humankind serves one of two masters; everyone is either a slave of God or a slave of the devil. How are we to be set free from the slavery of sin and hell? The answer is that we must believe in Christ. Realize that slavery to sin brings about our spiritual death and only Christ can set us free. We depend upon Christ to do what He has promised to do. To believe in Christ is to depend on Him, with hope and trust, to save us from sin and hell. It is not simply about having knowledge of Christ, but should be the daily decision we make to trust Him and walk hand-in –hand with Him through life.

Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, Who inspires and perfects our faith

The Pharisees seemed to be forever asking who Jesus was. Jesus answered their questions in such a way to honor God. He encouraged them to rely on His promises and obey His commands, not withstanding all temptations to evil. In so doing, they would truly be His disciples; and by following Him, they would learn where their hope and strength lay.

In today’s Gospel reading from John, Jesus used the uplifted brazen serpent to picture His own death on the cross. He overcame the very thing that was killing us—sin. The only way for us to be saved is to look to Christ with faith. Let us look to Him daily for encouragement and life!
Jesus is responding to the Pharisees, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me.” Jesus reminds His opponents that they will one day recognize Him — when He is lifted up on the cross! He asserts His faith in His Father, witnessing that He is never alone and that even in His extreme suffering His Father is with Him; “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to Him.”

When we fix our eyes on Jesus lifted up on the cross, in the Resurrection, and at the right hand of the Father in heaven, we will believe in Him, and be crucified to the world. We will die and live in grace, not sin. Jesus promised: “And I – once I am lifted up from earth – will draw all men to Myself” . “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, Who inspires and perfects our faith”

Christ spoke of spiritual liberty! But materialistic hearts feel no pain, other than that, which injures their body or upsets their worldly affairs. Talk to them of their liberty and property, tell them of waste committed upon their lands, or damage done to their houses, and they understand very well. But speak of bondage of sin, of captivity to greed, tell them of the damage they are doing to their precious souls, and you will be saying strange things to their ears. Christ reminds us that those who practice sin are slaves to that sin. Those whom Christ makes free are really free. Free again! Thank God we are free again!

“let it be done to me according to your word”

The Annunciation story is one of singular beauty and wonder. Mary was a poor peasant girl, in a no-place village, she would have been illiterate, her knowledge of scriptures limited to what she heard in the synagogue and committed to memory in her home. But, Mary was the only one out of the billions ever to live on our planet who was chosen to carry and nurse God’s Son. For that reason alone, we call her blessed!

God’s grace calls for and enables human response. This is seen in the Gospel account of the Annunciation, where the angel’s message evokes the response of Mary. The Incarnation and all that it entailed, including the passion, death and resurrection of Christ and the birth of the Church, came about by way of Mary’s freely uttered fiat – “let it be done to me according to your word”. We recognize in the event of the Incarnation God’s gracious ‘Yes’ to humanity as a whole. This reminds us once more of the Apostle’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:18-20 : all God’s promises find their ‘Yes’ in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. In this context, Mary’s fiat can be seen as the supreme instance of a believer’s ‘Amen’ in response to the ‘Yes’ of God. Christian disciples respond to the same ‘Yes’ with their own ‘Amen’. They thus know themselves to be children together of the one heavenly Father, born of the Spirit as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, drawn into the communion of love of the blessed Trinity.
Mary epitomizes such participation in the life of God. Her response was not made without profound questioning, and it issued in a life of joy intermingled with sorrow, taking her even to the foot of her son’s cross. When Christians join in Mary’s ‘Amen’ to the ‘Yes’ of God in Christ, they commit themselves to an obedient response to the Word of God, which leads to a life of prayer and service. Like Mary, they not only magnify the Lord with their lips: they commit themselves to serve God’s justice with their lives.

This is truly a remarkable picture. Young and inexperienced as she was, Mary was reflective and meditative. She knew the spiritual power of contemplation. She stood atop the mount of grace and meditated upon what this meant for her, and what it required from her. In our frenetic, non-contemplative age, Mary’s example has special relevance: only those who take time to contemplate upon the word of God will experience the birth of Christ in their lives. We must, therefore, all agree that Mary is the most blessed of women, and that “Blessed Virgin Mary” is a fitting designation for her in the life of our Church.

When we “die” to ourselves, we “rise” to new life in Jesus Christ.

The Lenten scripture readings in last two weeks of the season draw us closer to the cross of Jesus. Today the Lord foretells not only the kind of death He was to die, but gives us great insight into the meaning of His life, death and resurrection.
Jesus told His hearers that the hour of His death was approaching. He observed: “I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24). The burial of the seed in the soil is not its final end, but a time of transition. The life in the seed “dies,” but this death leads to a different life that bears much fruit.

Like the buried seed, His death would hold the promise of resurrection and new life. By submitting to a most cruel and humiliating death, Jesus would take upon His own shoulders the weight of our sins and transgressions and open to us the gates of heaven. Never has the world known such unmerited, unconditional love. And when we draw near to the cross of Jesus through the holy sacrifice of the Mass we are embraced and renewed in that love.

If we want to experience the new life which Jesus offers, then the outer shell of our old, fallen nature must be broken and put to death. In Baptism our “old nature” enslaved by sin is buried with Christ and we rise as a “new creation” in Christ. This process of death to the “old fallen self” is both a one-time event, such as baptism, and a daily, on-going cycle in which God buries us more deeply into Jesus’ death to sin so we might rise anew and bear fruit for God. There is a great paradox here. Death leads to life. When we “die” to ourselves, we “rise” to new life in Jesus Christ.
We could do no better than to spend these last two weeks of Lent meditating upon these last two weeks of Lent meditating upon the image of our crucified Lord, praying always that we might follow Him wherever He leads, being willing to serve and honor Him by our faithful stewardship of His abundant love.

Pillar No.7: The Rosary

The rosary (from Latin rosarium, meaning “rose garden”) or “garland of roses” is a traditional Catholic devotion. The term denotes the prayer beads used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary. The prayers consist of repeated sequences of the Lord’s Prayer, followed by ten prayings of the Hail Mary and a single praying of “Glory Be to the Father” and is sometimes accompanied by the Fatima Prayer; each of these sequences is known as a decade. The praying of each decade is accompanied by meditation on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which recall the life of Jesus Christ.

It is said that the Holy Rosary is one of the most important gift to the world from Mama Mary. Basically, it is a combination of silent and verbal prayers. We can see the importance of the Rosary to most Roman Catholics as most of them are doing this every day. Some catholic homes have dedicated a special place for a shrine or an altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Places have been made famous as a site for Marian apparition such as Lourdes and Fatima wherein the blessed Mary has strongly requested the importance of the rosary in salvation. The importance of the Rosary is its emblematic symbol of a Catholic’s strong devotion. In one of his Apostolic Letters, Pope Leo XIII said that “As the various mysteries present themselves one after another in the formula of the Rosary, for the meditation and contemplation of men’s minds, they also make clear what we owe to Mary for our reconciliation and salvation.” Pope Leo XIII is also known as the Rosary Pope because of his strong devotion to the Rosary that he issued twelve Apostolic Letters and five encyclicals purely devoted to the development and propagation of praying using the rosary.

Pope Leo XIII also influenced our present-day devotion of the whole month of October as the Marian Month. During this time, Roman Catholics around the world are expected to recite the rosary every day. In this event, the Catholic Church also suggested an importance of Marian devotion. It was Pope Leo XIII who can be credited for the popularity of the Rosary at present times.

Pope John Paul II devoted October 2002 to October 2003 as the Year of the Rosary, to strongly emphasize and promote the recital of the Rosary in the whole Roman Catholic world. For most Catholics, it was an invitation to deepen Marian Devotion, in order to fulfill salvation and the apostolate of Mary for Jesus Christ. In this way, the catholic world brings this devotion to the rest of us. For most Catholics around the world, the contemplation and devotion of prayer using the Rosary leads to a natural desire for reconciliation and peace.

The importance of the Holy Rosary can be countless. It could be numerous as the number of individuals who recite the Rosary religiously and with strong devotion. The addition of the Luminous Mysteries by Pope John Paul II in 2002 created another way of Marian devotion as cited in his Apostolic Letter entitled Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

First of all, one of the most important things that we must do as Christians is to pray, and beginning prayer is meditation. Realize that Christian meditation has absolutely nothing in common with Eastern meditation. That are completely different things and that fact that they are called by the same word is an unfortunate happenstance. Christian meditation is recalling and thinking about the truths of the faith. Meditation using Sacred Scripture (the Bible) is called Lectio Divinia.

The rosary is a series of prayers based on the Bible – the Our Father, and the Hail Mary (the Angelic Salutation from the Gospel of Luke). But the vocal prayer is like the background music, if you will, to the meditation of the mysteries of the faith, which is the heart of the rosary.
So we are praying by meditating on the mysteries of our Redemption. And this form of prayer was very ancient, but the form that we currently use was given by Our Blessed Mother to St. Dominic (who was founder of the Dominicans). As Catholics, we walk in our Savior’s footsteps, and one of the ways in which we imitate Him is in His love and devotion to His mother. “St. Dominic knew well that, while on the one hand Mary is all powerful with Her divine Son, who grants all graces to mankind through Her, on the other hand, She is by nature so good and so merciful that, inclined to aid spontaneously those who suffer, She is absolutely incapable of refusing Her help to those who invoke Her. The Church is in the habit of greeting the Virgin as ‘Mother of Grace’ and ‘Mother of Mercy,’ and so She has always shown Herself, especially when we have recourse to Her by means of the Holy Rosary.” -Pope Benedict XV

“As the various mysteries present themselves one after another in the formula of the Rosary, for the meditation and contemplation of men’s minds, they also make clear what we owe to Mary for our reconciliation and salvation. No one can fail to be sweetly affected when he considers who appeared in Elizabeth’s home as the minister of the divine gifts, who presented Her Son to the shepherds, the kings and Simeon. One must remember, too, that Christ’s blood shed for our sake, and those members in which He offers to His Father the wounds He received as the price of our freedom, are no other than the flesh and blood of the Virgin. The flesh of Jesus is the Flesh of Mary, and however much it was exalted in the glory of His Resurrection, still the nature of His flesh which He took from Mary remained and still remains the same.” -Pope Leo XIII

So the rosary is important to us, as Catholic Christians, as fulfilling our Blessed Lord’s command to pray always, as meditation on the events of His life, as a form of prayer that was given to us at the express wish of Our Blessed Mother, and as one of the forms of prayer, above most others that leads many saints to intimate union with God.
Catholics are good at praying. The Rosary is by far the most practiced prayer. It is the repetition of the Our Father and Hail Mary. The full Rosary consists of 15 Our Fathers and 150 Hail Mary’s, 15 “Glory Be to the Father, Son & Holy Ghost” and “Divine Heart of Jesus…” (for the words to these prayers, scroll to the bottom).

Catholic tradition teaches that it was given to St. Dominic by Mary herself as a means to combat heresy and to promote spirituality. The origin of the Rosary is in the 1100’s. The entire rosary is Biblical, and is a meditation of the life of Christ through the eyes of the human being who knew Him best: His mother. And as any parent would agree, if one saw his or her child suffer the way Christ suffered, it would be a vision that wound you through life, and remember through eternity – especially if you understood that your child was the Son of God and was unjustly put to death. Indeed, most parents would rather offer their own life in place of their child’s. This is the reason the rosary can be such a passionate prayer. Because through the eyes of Mary, we begin to understand Jesus and the acceptance of God’s will.
As a form of prayer, the Rosary is most effective because it utilized man’s tri-fold nature: physical, mental and spiritual. Most praying I had ever done only involved the spiritual, or at best – physical and spiritual. The reason the Rosary is so encompassing is because as human beings, we are easily distracted. The repetition of prayers serves as a compassionate way for imperfect humans to pray, since – frankly – we don’t always ‘get’ the full meaning of anything we say the first time. Try saying, for example: “I love, you Father” one time. Now get on your knees and say “I love you, Father” fifteen times, slowly and meaningfully. Then you start to understand what you are saying. You see, God does not need for us to repeat prayers 5, 10, 15 or 100 times. In fact, God does not need us to pray at all. It is we who need the prayers, and our nature which needs the repetition to bury the meanings deep within our souls. This is the basis of the Rosary.

Are we worshiping Mary?

Praying to Mary is not worshiping Mary. It is universally understood by Catholics that Mary wants nothing more than for us to worship God. The fact is that Catholics DO go straight to the source (God, of course). But good Catholics place great emphasis on the avoidance of sin, and to combat sin in our lives, and understand we need the prayers of others….everyone. Living or dead.
Who better than Mary to understand the complexity of human life and pitfalls, and yet who also knows Jesus better than any human being? Remember, the first recorded request Jesus ever answered was that of His mother’s, during the marriage at Cana. And even He granted this prayer (or request) somewhat reluctantly since it wasn’t a crisis matter and it was “before His time” – in spite of this He still obliged his mother. Even something as insignificant as providing more wine for a wedding feast Jesus did because he honored his mother’s request and authority as his parent.
Therefore a good Catholic not only prays to God as much as possible, but to everyone who can pray for him or her – mostly Mary. Catholics feel Mary has a special relationship with God – on earth as her role as Jesus’ mother, and in heaven where she has become the spiritual mother of all. Mary is important because by accepting the will of God, she salvation began on earth because of her.
Remember, none of us would be saved in this manner if Mary hadn’t said “yes”. And think for a moment, she could have said “no”. We directly or inadvertently decline the will of God every day, and we will someday understand the harm we have caused or the good we have thwarted. In Mary’s position would we have the wisdom and will to say yes?
Prayer is spiritual communication. Devotion and asking assistance of those in heaven is no different than asking a friend to pray for you. Worship is reserved for God alone. Any person, Catholic or not, who places any saint (or any other thing – money, people, etc.) in a position of being worshiped commits idolatry.

Other benefits of the Rosary

There are many promises attached to the Rosary, mostly to defeat heresy and to build fervor for the love of God.
“In my personal experience, I have seen dramatic changes in myself take place after reciting the Rosary consistently. Spiritually, I am more focused in a minute by minute way. Although my life is very busy, I am still able to concentrate on God, and remember to pray to Him when I encounter a problem. (forgetting to pray is a big problem of mine, so much that I often pray just to “remember to pray” -ha,ha.)”
“I find everything I have going on in my physical life is better. This is an added blessing, in my opinion, since I’ve never found a promise attached to the Rosary for this – but it happens consistently every time I say the rosary with regularity. For example, our financial needs are met when we pray the Rosary. Life is more organized – I accomplish what I need to during the day. Somehow the house is clean, my tasks at work are completed. This has to be the rosary, since usually I run behind with everything! I am aware of sin to a greater degree and I am more patient with others in general. With such a powerful prayer, I can’t wait to pray it! There are so many people on my lists to pray for! I am also glad, above all, to offer God my most tender devotion and to recall the experiences of Jesus step by step – year by year, of his years spent on earth.”

If you are new to reciting the Rosary, click HERE for a beginner’s manual on the Rosary.