Sunday, October 24, 2010

Strength in sorrow

     In a world where suffering is a taboo, many would find it totally absurd to meditate the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary and pick up from such meditation some spiritual benefits. I find it really mind-boggling that while many find violent movies entertaining, only a few comprehend that human suffering can be salvific because Christ has already transformed it through His own passion and death.

     It is the experience of this few and their comprehension of the meaning of suffering that we would like to look into as we contemplate the sorrowful experiences of Jesus – His experience of betrayal, rejection, mockery, physical abuse and death. Contemplating Jesus in His most vulnerable moments can be a source of strength for us in moments when we are most powerless.

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FIRST SORROWFUL MYSTERY: The Agony of Jesus in Gethsemane. We find Jesus kneeling on the ground, with eyes fixed on the dark skies. Deep within Him are two forces fighting against each other: the obedience to His Father’s will and the horror of man’s sins and of His bloody death on the cross. And He looked at these two from the perspective of His infinite love: for His Father and for the human race – a love which received its first deadly blow from the betrayal of His friend, Judas: a betrayal sealed with a kiss!

     Jesus embodies our own experiences of betrayal, of loving and being betrayed. His inner conflict is just as real as the conflicts that inflict us every now and then. His agony is a model of every man’s anguish caused by the horrors of evil – evil that is even brought about by man’s undoing. But look at where Jesus’ agony has brought Him: to the garden of Gethsemane, on His knees. May our affliction bring us also to our own “Gethsemane” and on our knees!

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SECOND SORROWFUL MYSTERY: The Scourging at the Pillar. Jesus could have eluded this unnecessary torment had Pilate immediately decreed His verdict – either conviction or acquittal. But in his desire to save Jesus from the wrath of the Jewish authorities (he knew that the motive was purely envy), he wanted Jesus scourged thinking of two things: to appease the mob’s anger and, subsequently, to release Him. But the result was a complete disaster: Jesus’ scourging became a prelude to His bloody death on the cross!

     Sometimes we have good intentions but we lack the will power to put them into practice. St. Josemaría said it is not enough to desire only to do what is good. We need to know how to do it, and effectively do it! Oftentimes great things are at stake: it could be our happiness. We could have eluded utter failures in life had we decided to execute our good intentions in the best manner we possibly knew.

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THIRD SORROWFUL MYSTERY: The Coronation with Thorns. The pain that Jesus experienced was of double dimension: physical and moral or spiritual. Moral suffering – for instance, that which is caused by your loved ones rejection or betrayal – is greater than the physical one. Perhaps the mockery of the soldiers was less morally painful compared to the desertion of His beloved disciples. It was less painful than the thorns with which His persecutors crowned Him. Although we can also say that the disrespect of these soldiers was more heartbreaking than the excruciating thorn in His head.

     This only shows that what is more spiritual – the moral dimension – is superior to what is merely physical (though I am not suggesting a separation between the two). Not once I’ve heard people safeguarding their integrity saying: “I’d rather die of hunger first than to indulge myself into robbery”. St. Josemaría has a more radical way of putting it: “Antes morir que pecar” (I’d rather die first than to sin!).

     But today, lots of people give more importance to the appetites of the flesh than to the need of their spirit? For many would rather use condoms and other contraceptive device and indulge themselves into the desires of the flesh than observe continence and grow in maturity and self-control.

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FOURTH SORROWFUL MYSTERY: Carrying of the Cross to the Mt. Calvary. When Jesus said: “Those who want to be my disciples should carry their cross, and follow me”, He was thinking already of doing it first, that is, of carrying His own cross so that others may follow. Of course, it is hard to imagine a scene wherein Jesus is carrying His cross going to the Mt. Calvary while at His back, His disciples carrying their own crosses.

     But what is literally difficult to imagine is metaphorically easy to prove by experience, for crosses of every kind we can easily encounter today even without trying to look for them: that mother-in-law who is difficult to get along with, our employment and economic problems, difficulties in your studies, relational problems, etc., -- these are inevitable crosses that we need to confront every day. And if we don’t carry them, who shall do it for us? And if we don’t carry them conscious that Jesus has carried His own first, for our sake, our crosses would seem very heavy and insufferable. But once we carry them with Jesus and for Jesus, they become light and meaningful.

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FIFTH SORROWFUL MYSTERY: The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. It is the culmination of Jesus’ suffering, but not of His life and presence in the world. It is the peak of His temporal existence, but with His death, it is not only, “It is over” but it is also, “It is fulfilled”. Jesus is not contented that His suffering is over: He is happy that His mission is now fulfilled.

     In life, we naturally would look for “It is over” and forget that what we must go after is “It is fulfilled”. How we wish our problems and difficulties would be over; how we wish, school is over; how we wish, this article will be over, etc. But beyond wishing what we wish would be over, we should wish and pray that “It is fulfilled”. For what is more important in life is not that we have finished something but that we are fulfilled or that something is fulfilled as we finish it. At the end of our lives, we shall be examined not by the life that is over and lived, but by the life that is accomplished and fulfilled.


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"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.