Friday, May 20, 2016

Hope and the Sorrowful Mysteries

How do you hold on to hope in the midst of the darkest hours of your life? How do you continue to love when you're so wounded you can barely breathe? These are the questions that are answered in the stories of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.

The Agony In the Garden - Matthew 26: 36-46

Christ, fully God and fully man, is on His knees pleading for mercy. He's spent 33 years struggling to help humanity overcome their selfishness and learn to love one another. He knows his journey is nearly at an end. He knows that what is ahead is pain greater than any He has ever experienced in his life. It will be brutal, agonizing, and horrific.

His own selfishness battles with his love for humanity. "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me"

Yet in the very next breath He surrenders Himself to the Divine Plan, "yet not as I will, but as you will."

Doubts flood him. Not doubts that the Father is good or that obedience is best, but that what He does will be worth it in the end. He sees all the souls that will turn away and be lost in spite of His sacrifice. He agonizes over it. He knows that wars will continue, that people will keep hurting one another, and He begs the Father to reassure Him that His sacrifice will not be in vain.

An angel is sent to comfort Him, because the three best friends He has have fallen asleep and He is left alone to carry the grief.

In the end, He is able to overcome His struggle by remembering the purpose of His sacrifice: love. His death is the only way to show humanity how to truly love their neighbor. The torture, the sacrifice, the pain are all necessary if Love is to be put to its fullest test. And He must pass that test in order to provide the example that will lead the way forward for humanity.

When you set out to serve others and love others, you will meet hardships and struggles, pain and failures, and you will get to this point where you wonder whether it's all worth it or not. This is the moment when you need to remind yourself of why you are doing all of this work, of what you're really trying to accomplish with your mission. And in focusing on your purpose, you will find the strength to carry on with your journey.

The Scourging at the Pillar - Matthew 27:26

Innocent of wrong, Christ is scourged anyway. The lashes tear into the skin of his back and rip him wide open. Blood pours down his back. Sweat trickles into the new wounds and bring more pain. Yet in all of this, he neither complains about his situation nor condemns those who are doing the scourging. He doesn't blame those who condemned him unjustly. He is a man at peace in spite of the pain.

Why? How was he able to endure the lashings from unjust accusations? He knew that they were falsely accusing him because they didn't understand where He was leading them. They didn't know what He did. They were scourging Him out of their ignorance and blindness. He also understood that it was no use to reply to their anger with anger of His own. It would only allow them to feel justified in their behavior.

His peace came from knowing that He was not in the wrong. He refused to blame others for where He was. He could have stopped this at any time, and He knew it. He was choosing to accept what they dished out. Why be angry at them for His choices?

When you are being falsely accused for being hard of heart or for failing to deliver what others expected of you, use this story to remind yourself that other people don't know what you know. They don't understand the process required to get what they desire. 

They're not angry with you. They're angry because they feel frustrated at the inability to get what they want and they may perceive you as being in the way of their progress even if you are trying to help them because they don't understand why you are telling them to do what you are telling them to do.

The Crowning with Thorns - Matthew 27:27-31

Stripped of his own garment, the soldiers placed a dirty blood red cloak around his shoulders. They tormented Jesus and mocked him. They placed a crown of thorns on his head, gave him a reed to hold in his hand, and made fun of the idea that this poor man could possibly be a king. They didn't understand Christ's vision, his plans, or his purpose. They thought His strengths were weaknesses. They thought His vision was folly. They thought His plans had failed. They didn't realize they were helping Him to fulfill His plans.

At some point in your journey, there will be people who will make fun of you for trying to do anything big. They will jeer at the idea that someone like you could possibly fulfill a vision so big. Wear these jeers as if they were crowns.  Turn their insults into badges of honor and mantras for your future. Use them to motivate and encourage you to prove them all wrong and show them a better future is possible than their limited imagination can conceive. And pave the way for their future by moving forward rather than allowing their words to hold you back.

The Carrying of the Cross - Matthew 27:31–33

The weight of the cross was heavy. It dug into Christ's shoulders, scraped against wounds that were already tender and raw, left painful slivers in his flesh. In that cross was the need and the pain of every human being, the consequences of every selfish choice made, the failures to love. Three times Christ stumbled in carrying the burden, needing help to carry it to the end. He saw in that cross the opportunity to save those who would let him and the chance to give encouragement to everyone who ever faced a burden greater than their strength. He knew it was only because He loved them that these burdens fell on his shoulders, and the cross became a symbol of His love for them.

As you struggle to build a better tomorrow and serve others, you can begin to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who are pulling at you. The demands on your time and your energy may feel like they are draining you of the joy of service. The burden of leadership may begin to weigh heavily on your shoulders and you may be feeling empty and drained.

At moments like this, it is easy to focus on the weight of the cross you bear rather than being grateful for the honor of being entrusted with so much. Gratitude does not make the weight any less, but it does allow you to search for the gift in the cross you carry and to see it as a gift rather than as a burden.  The cross humbles you, the weight of it keeps you bent, and your willingness to carry it is the sign of how much you care for those you serve.

The Crucifixion - Matthew 27: 34-50

The day was hot. The pain of the nails being pounded into his hands and feet was excruciating. He struggled for air, for a moment's comfort. Bloodied, bruised, everything He was left on display for the amusement of others. His life bleeding out before them all. Though his mother and one other stood with him, this was a battle they could not help him fight. He was alone to face the final moments. The work He'd done to this point could be undone by a single choice made to give in to selfishness, pity, pride, vanity, or anger. He wasn't just fighting for air. He was fighting for the people He served.

Who are you fighting for? Whose dreams are you focusing on? To achieve your goals, you must allow your own dreams to die. You must be willing to sacrifice what matters most to you in order to serve the desires of those you serve. You must put their needs ahead of your own, abandon yourself to them, and surrender your life for theirs.

The dreams that you hold are an obstacle. Hold onto the dreams, and the people you desire to lead become just a stepping stone in the path to achieving your own desires. Allow those dreams to die, and you pave the way for a new future, one that is stronger and filled with more hope for everyone. Allow those dreams to die and you have the room in your life to make their priorities your own. 

That self-sacrificial service will break through obstacles that have previously held you back. It will attract those you desire most to serve, and will distinguish you from others who are not willing to do the same. It is hard to see this at the darkest hour, but everything that is being stripped from you now will allow you to focus more completely on the service of those around you so that you can achieve your greatest desires in life.

Next Post: The Glorious Mysteries and Hope

We've stumbled, we've fallen, we've accepted the need to surrender our lives and our desires to the service of others. What do we have to gain for all of this? The Glorious Mysteries remind us of what waits on the other side if we are willing to walk with confidence through the tough moments of life.

Where Are You In the Sorrowful Mysteries?

What are you going through right now? Get hope, encouragement, and be lifted up! Let us know, and we'll pray for you.

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