Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Sorrowful Mysteries: Be It Done Unto Me According To Thy Word

Yesterday, August 3, was the First Saturday of the Month. The First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. After showing the three children a vision of hell she said, "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace... I shall come to ask for... the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays..." The First Saturday devotion is as follows:
It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity.
I normally take one mystery of the Rosary, e.g., The Second Sorrowful Mystery, and write a meditation on it.  Today I'm going to do something a little different and take all Five Sorrowful Mysteries and meditate on our Blessed Mother's Role in these mysteries.  The Five Sorrowful Mysteries are:

  1. The Agony in the Garden:  Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane pray and prepare himself for the great passion into which he is about to enter.  He contemplates the entire sin of the world, which causes him so much agony that he literally starts to sweat blood.  At this time, Judas, in the ultimate act of betrayal came into the Garden with the Temple guards to arrest Jesus.  Our Lord is arrested and treated as a common criminal.   

  2. The Scourging at the Pillar:  In an effort to appease the blood hungry crowd, Pilate had Our Lord scourged at the pillar, a most inhumane and cruel punishment, using whips that literally tore into the skin, exposing bone.  Pilate knew Jesus was not guilty of any crime, but he nonetheless ordered Jesus to be scourged within an inch of his life.

  3. The Crowning With Thorns:  In mocking our Lord as King of the Jews, the Roman Soldiers took a crown made from thorns and pushed it into our Blessed Lord's Sacred Head.  If you've ever stuck yourself with a rose thorn, you know how painful this is.  Imagine even larger thorns woven into a "crown" and smashed down upon your head and literally into your brain.  The pain must have been beyond excruciating.  

  4. The Carrying of the Cross:  After being scourged and suffering a great loss of blood and enduring the pain and humiliation of the crown of thorns and losing even more blood, Jesus takes up his cross and walks among the taunting crowds to his place of execution.  Some of the women show great compassion for him, such as Veronica who braved the soldiers to wipe the blood from the face of our Lord.  Some of the women of Jerusalem openly wept for him.  But mostly our Lord had to endure such taunts as "Savior of the world, you can't even save yourself!"  No doubt many in the crowds threw things at him and spat upon our Dear Savior.  

  5. The Crucifixion:  Our Lord was nailed to the Cross by his hands and feet where he hung naked for three hours, being bitten by flies and other insects, having to force himself up to breathe, and enduring even more taunting and insults from the crowds while the last of his blood poured out of his body from his innumerable wounds.  

What was the role of Mary, the mother of our Lord in all of this? How did she handle the tremendous cruelty and injustice endured by Her Son? There can be no doubt that she felt each blow herself. There can be no doubt that she would have gladly taken the place of Her Son to spare him this awful agony and torture.  But we can also be sure that our Lord spent a good part of His earthly life preparing His Mother for this moment, explaining to her, just as he tried to explain to his apostles, that this was the very reason he came into the world.  His purpose in life was to die.  Mary carried this pain within herself from the time she took her Son to the temple as a newborn babe and was told by the old man, Simeon, that a sword would pierce her heart.  

Mary suffered every step of the way along with Her Son, starting long before that first Good Friday. She understood in a way that no one else on earth did how those around them completely misunderstood and misinterpreted Jesus. She saw Judas who saw Jesus only as a way to enrich himself. She saw Peter who appeared in many ways to be nothing more than a blowhard, vowing his loyalty to the Lord and then running when there was true danger. She saw the Pharisees and Saducees, the religious leaders of the day, attack her Precious Son, wanting to destroy Him because He seemed to threaten their role in society. She knew, as no one else did, how completely pure and innocent Her Son was and how completely undeserving He was of the barbaric and tortuous death He was forced to endure at the hands of the very ones He had come to save.

If any of the rest of us had been in Mary's place and had to watch such cruelty visited upon our children, we most certainly would have wanted to strike out in some way against the perpetrators of that cruelty.  But we have no record anywhere of Mary ever complaining or speaking against anyone who betrayed her Son in any way.  She lived by her words of the consent she gave to the Angel Gabriel when asked to be the Mother of God: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word".

Mary was the first true disciple of Jesus.  She was the first one to give herself completely and without reserve to Jesus, accepting His rule in her life.  She recognized the Omnipotence of God, acknowledging that He was totally in charge of everything that happened.  No matter how dark and desperate situations in life may have seemed, even at that darkest moment when Our Lord was crucified on Calvary, Mary silently and stoically accepted the Will of God and never once lashed out at any of those who treated her Son so unjustly.  

I am seeing very little of this trusting and faithful attitude in the Catholic Church today.  This lack of trust is not surprising at all from those on the more liberal side.  Liberal is often all about "change" and wanting things the way we want them.  The problem is that far too many on the left want change that is not consistent with Church teaching, such as married priests and women priests.  They are not willing to listen to the Magesterium of the Church and allow the Holy Spirit to guide them but insist on pushing their own beliefs and desires.

What is surprising, at least to me, is that those who call themselves "Traditional Catholics" are really no different from their liberal counterparts. Many traditionalists have very specific ideas about how the Church should be run and they do not tolerate anyone who disagrees with them. Many seem to feel that they have a full and complete understanding of the Will of God and that they, literally, know better than the Pope what is right and wrong. Pope Francis has become a lightening rod to the traditionalists, and even those outside of the Church are becoming very aware of this. There have been more than a few articles in secular publications and websites noting how dissatisfied many Traditionalists are with Pope Francis. Many of these Traditionalists seem to feel that if things are not exactly to their liking, that means the sky is falling and, unlike our Blessed Mother who waited on the Lord, they feel they have to take matters into their own hands and make their own judgments.

Traditionalists are more and more reminding me of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  From Luke 8:9-14:
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
I received an e-mail from a traditionalist friend recently in which she forwarded an e-mail from a friend discussing Pope Francis.  This is how the e-mail began:
Now, on to the Pope. It is a sad state when one wakes up every day filled with dread as to what horrific thing the Pope is going to say today. I called Bergoglio as a “disaster” literally on day one. And a disaster he is.
The author of this e-mail was very upset with Pope Francis' recent comments regarding "gay" priests in which he said that he cannot judge a homosexual priest who is trying to serve the Lord.  The Holy Father's exact words were "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"  The author of the e-mail called this comment "stupid".  She says she is not sedevacantist, and fully believes that Pope Francis is a legitimate pope, but she sees his role as a "chastisement" to the Church for all the wrong we have done.  And she feels no qualms at all about harshly criticizing him because he does not live up to her standards.  From the e-mail:
Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ and is a chastisement. I am not a sede-vacantist (meaning the See of Peter is empty and Francis is not the Pope). That’s the coward’s way out. If I was a sede-vacantist I wouldn’t care what Bergoglio said or did in the same way I don’t care what the Anglican “archbishop” of Canterbury says or does. No. He’s the Pope alright, and he is an absolute disaster, as I said from the beginning. Expect things to get progressively worse.
The self righteousness and scorn in this e-mail is enough to make my skin crawl.  I am sure this person prays the Rosary on a daily basis, would never think of missing Sunday Mass and probably even goes to daily Mass, and from all outward appearances is an upstanding and faithful Catholic.  But her words belie that fact, just as did the Pharisee's words in the parable.

We don't have to understand everything that goes on around us.  Most likely we won't understand when we are in the middle of a storm, just as I am sure our Blessed Mother did not understand all of the trying and painful circumstances in her life, and most especially the horrendous events on the way to and at Calvary.  But she never struck out at others.  She placed herself completely and without reserve into the hands of God and let Him work it all out.  That is what we must also learn to do.  If we truly believe, as Catholics, that this is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, that the Catholic Church is His Mystical Body upon which the gates of Hell shall never prevail, and if we truly believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, the physical representative of Christ on earth who cannot mislead us in faith and morals, then we have no right to sit as judge and jury over anyone or anything.  This is most especially true concerning the Pope.  We must follow the lead of our Blessed Mother in all things.

Many traditionalists are scornful of Pope Francis because he preaches love and acceptance of all people.  He believes in mercy, not judgment.  That does not mean accepting people's sin, but it does mean accepting people.  We are all sinners, and none of us have escaped our sin except through the mercy of God.  Even though we may not struggle with "big" sins such as homosexuality, we could actually be far worse sinners in the eyes of God than those who do struggle with the "big" sins.  Our Lord said to whom much is given, much is expected.  We who have been given and accepted the grace of God and forgiveness of our sins will be judged by a much harsher standard than those who have not received the Grace of God.  As Christ told the chief priests and elders of his time:  "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did."  (Matt. 21:31-32)

Jesus forgives the woman caught in adultery

When our Lord walked the earth, many sinners were attracted to Him and wanted to be with Him because he showed them love and acceptance. He didn't wait for them to repent and change. He reached out to them while they were still in their sins, as He did with the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery.  With many of these people, once they felt the love of Christ, that gave them the courage and strength they need to turn away from their sins.  Pope Francis is following in the ways of our Lord in reaching out to the world, and the world is responding. They see in Pope Francis a man who truly loves them despite their sins, and I believe that many will turn away from their sins as the Pope leads them to the love of Jesus Christ.

You may not believe that.  You may be completely baffled by the actions of the Holy Father and not understand what is going on.  But you need to take the attitude of our Blessed Mother when she was in the midst of the storm of Calvary.  Trust in our Lord that He can work out everything.  Realize that it is not your job to save the Church from itself, it is not your job to sit as judge and juror over the Pope or anyone else.  It is your job to trust in the Lord and to allow His love to flow through you to others, just as our Holy Mother did.  

Be It Done Unto Me According To Thy Word.

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