Tag Archives: spiritual growth

The Joyful Mysteries

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I started yesterday with some good prayer, and the night before, I studied some uplifting passages in the Scriptures. However, it was a typical Monday for me once I got to work: I was unable to fully wake up, and my students gave me an especially hard time because I handed back the final drafts of their essays which never seems to go well.

I tell you, college students will argue ’til the cows come home in order to get me or my colleagues to reconsider their grades (I usually don’t).

In typical fashion, my focus was no longer on God but on my workday and on everything that needed to be done. By the time I got to my car in the evening, I was feeling pretty guilty about pushing Jesus aside the whole day. It really pained my heart. I needed to get my focus back and put the day’s events (and failures) behind me.

I have iRosary which is an app for my iPhone. I used to use it in order to learn the structure of the rosary and the prayers. Now, however, I seem to use it only to find out what the mysteries are for a certain day.

So I was instantly comforted to know that yesterday was the day for the Joyful Mysteries. God always knows what I need!

I have written some thoughts that I had during my praying of the rosary yesterday. I hope you are able to find some encouragement from them.

1. The Annunciation – Fruit of the Spirit: Humility

The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord may not be sending angels to let you know that change is coming, but He works in ways which we may not realize.

Because of His grace, God enabled me to reach out to Him in distress; he answered me by moving within my heart and assuring me that He blesses a humble spirit. God doesn’t want many eloquent words; He works best with a humble and contrite spirit.

You don’t have to be a canonized saint or the Mother of God for Him to speak to you. Just start with prayer and ask Him to help you and show you the way to His Son.

2. The Visitation – Fruit of the Spirit: Love of Neighbor

Gabriel visited Mary, and then Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John, the one who would baptize Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.

It’s been said that Mary was the first missionary, bringing Jesus to her cousin. The Scriptures say that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped with joy when Mary greeted her.

The fruit of the Spirit, love of neighbor, spoke to me the most regarding this mystery. I had just finished a stressful day with students and colleagues, and praying for and loving them were the furthest from my mind; another example of how God urges us and helps us!

3. The Birth of Jesus – Fruit of the Spirit: Poverty

Everyone knows about the nativity; we see it every December. As a result, when I pray this mystery, I try to meditate on something that isn’t ingrained in me like images of warm-and-fuzzy manger scenes on Christmas cards.

I once heard an Evangelical preacher on the radio say that he wanted to design a Christmas card image that reflected his own perspective on the nativity: a disturbing image of Mary on the ground drenched in blood, screaming in agony while giving birth.

The purpose of the preacher’s controversial idea, which may or may not have come to fruition, was to “tell it like it was” and shake people up. Although I’d rather not go to that extreme, I focused on poverty while meditating on this mystery and how God loved me so much that He allowed His Son to be born into a poor family. That little baby in a Bethlehem stable would definitely shake people up one day.

4. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – Fruit of the Spirit: Obedience

This particular mystery was a breath of fresh air for me yesterday. Our Heavenly Father wants our obedience because that is the only way He can help us. When we surrender to God and His will, we are like baby Jesus in the arms of Simeon, receiving a blessing in the Lord’s very own temple. It is quite an amazing image that  brought tears to my eyes.

You may feel that you are worthless and that nobody loves you. Maybe you’ve been told this so many times that you have started to believe it. Take another look at the image above and see how proud Mary, Joseph, and Simeon the priest are. God and all of the angels and saints in heaven are just as proud of you.

Do some studying and find out about God’s image of you. He created you, so believe Him instead of mean-spirited people in your life.

5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple – Fruit of the Spirit: Joy in Finding Jesus

Joseph and Mary had been looking for their Son who they thought was in their group as they made their way back home. After three days of searching, His parents were filled with joy when they found Him.

As a parent, I can imagine their joy and relief. Like any good mother, though, the first thing that Mary did was to admonish her Son for not keeping up with them.

Despite what the fruit of the Spirit says, I saw this in the opposite way: I was lingering behind, doing my own thing, and my spiritual family, The Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, and all the saints in heaven, celebrated and embraced me when I rejoined them.

Final Thoughts

God is nothing like my earthly father: staring at me with a critical eye, waiting for me to mess up so he can hit and berate me. Glory be to Christ that I have a loving Father who longs for me to wallow out of my sin and come back each time I mess up.

As I smiled and praised God for turning my sadness to joy yesterday, I thought of all the individuals in the world who have been hurt by religion or who don’t know the joy and love of the faith. I pray that others can find that bright pearl of Christ in their own lives.

~t


Do You Want to Get Well?

When we give ourselves and our problems over to God, He is faithful and will help us.

Yeah, right.

During the years that I was a church-hopping Protestant, I would hear personal testimonies about how God miraculously helped someone become a brand-new person in Christ. The Bible talks about this in several places; for example, 2 Corinthians 5:17 (RSV) says: “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”

I used to read about all the men and women in the New Testament who were changed like this: Paul, Mary Magdalene, Peter, etc. I listened to individuals stand up in front of churches and give testimonies. I would see people in church and wonder how they had their lives changed by Christ. Was it because they naturally had outgoing, ambitious personalities? Was it due to their being on a spiritual high every Sunday? How come God didn’t change me? Was it because I was a self-doubting introvert? Then there was no hope for me. I resigned to the belief that it just wasn’t part of God’s will for me to be a new creation. Maybe the Calvinists were right. I was starting to fear that Unconditional Election was indeed true.

I remember watching Pat Robertson on The 700 Club or other televangelists who would look into the camera and tell me that my life would be transformed and I would be a new man, able to flippantly dismiss sin as a king shooing away a servant.

There was something wrong. It was looking more and more like the Bible and Christianity were only for “winners” who already had positivity beaming out of their orifices like rays of sunshine.

Yelling and forcing did nothing. I didn’t last very long at non-denominational denominations because I had absolutely no interest in emulating the fake smiles and loud, obnoxious good ol’ boys who were “on fire for Jee-zus.” It just wasn’t me.

So, I figured I had two choices: 1) give up and become an atheist or a neo-pagan; or 2) pray like crazy.

I chose the latter because I still had a mustard seed of faith and, darn it, I was bound and determined to have this Holy Spirit live in me.

Matthew 16:25 says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Sorry, Jesus. That’s too cryptic for me.

There is a hymn that I remember from my college days that goes, “…we must die to ourselves and live through Your death.” What the heck does that mean? I have to give up everything and be a monk? That was a pretty scary thought.

So I prayed and prayed. I read everything that I could find about what it meant to surrender to God. I listened to religious call-in programs. I was doing and doing and doing.

I was thinking, I’m doing everything right, so how come I’m not growing in my faith? How come I’m not getting closer to God?

And, wouldn’t you know it, I took an inventory of my life one day and it dawned on me. I was going through the motions of being Catholic, but at the same time I was looking at Internet porn whenever I felt like it, listening to Satanic metal, masturbating regularly, using my illness as an excuse to be down, neglecting my family, and so on. I either had to do something drastic or remain miserable. I was like the invalid in the story from John 5: 1-9 (emphasis mine):

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

It was incredibly hard to cut off social media contacts with all of the negative influences in my life. I quit drinking (because it would sometimes lead me to sin), I stopped looking at porn, I stopped masturbating, I quit whining about being in a sexless marriage — basically I did some major spring cleaning.

That made all the difference.

What about you? Do you want to get well? Tired of being miserable year after year like the man in the above story? You gotta get the sin out of your life and turn to God.

And, yes, it is as hard as it sounds, but it’s what you need to get well.

~t

(photo by Topaz)