Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter. Readings for the Sunday can be found here.
Sometimes we may get the thought that God loves us because we are good or because we do certain things. Rather, the Holy Spirit through the words we hear today corrects us: God loved us first. In other words, we do not earn God’s love. We can choose to remain in his love, and allow His love to flourish in our lives or we can reject His love. We can either welcome the greatest guest into our souls or we can reject this wonderful loving guest. If we reject this guest, we shouldn’t be surprised if we begin to experience real loneliness, darkness, dissipation, and experience a small foretaste of hell: life without God. If we accept this guest, even if we do experience suffering, we know we are loved, and we are never alone. We will truly be able to listen to the great mandate to love God, and through God, truly be able to love one another. Love doesn’t of course involve feeling good and doing whatever we want: we have to die to ourselves. In dying to ourselves and welcoming God into our lives, we are allowing Him to use us as His vessels. Love involves sacrifice.
How do we love one another? I had a friend whose mother died tragically in a car accident. My friend had several siblings, and he often fought with his younger sister. The day before the accident, while speaking to one another on the telephone, his mom made a request to him: “I wish you and your sister would get along”. The next day she died suddenly in a car crash. Those were his mother’s last words to him, and of course she would have had no idea what would happen the next day. Yet, aren’t these the words of any mother to her children? She wishes to bring peace and love into her home, to see her children flourish in their lives, and to have them by her side, even if just with a regular phone call or letter. Isn’t the power of a mother evidenced in seeing her children, who have been separated over time, come together when they gather in her presence?
I have mentioned many times our need to have real devotion to the Blessed Mother. One very powerful way to live this is the Holy Rosary. It will change your life if you pray it everyday. How?
It is “one of the best and most efficacious prayers in common that the Christian family is invited to recite” (Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, 54). It is like a “spiritual oasis during the course of the day, from which we get strength and confidence.” (Pope Saint John Paul II, Angelus, 5 Oct, 1980). It is truly a powerful weapon to obtain the graces for which we request from the Blessed Mother. To be faithful to this prayer does involve a very small sacrifice.
Pope Saint John XXIII used to say that the worst rosary is the one that doesn’t get said. In other words, even if we are experiencing all sorts of distractions, our effort itself will attract a glance of love from our Blessed Mother. Saint Alphonsus Ligouri says if we get many distractions in prayer despite our best efforts, we may very well be upsetting the devil a great deal. St Thomas Aquinas comments that we can focus our attention in three ways during vocal prayer: correct pronunciation of the words, special concentration on the meaning of the words, attention on the final goal-God. Each of these is an effective and good way to pray. Saint Louis de Montfort notes, “neither feelings, nor consolation, nor sighs, nor transports, nor the continual attention of the imagination are needed; faith and good intentions are quite enough” (Secret of the Rosary, 11th Rose, p 170). We all have many people and situations for whom we need to pray. It can be helpful to offer each decade or each Hail Mary for a particular intention. The repetition of the Rosary can have a calming effect on our minds and souls, and over time as we are faithful in praying the mysteries everyday, we will notice slow effects in our lives: that virtue seems to have been acquired a little easier, that temptation doesn’t hold as much power, that strife in our lives seems to have calmed down, that sibling is someone to love, and not simply to fight. What a great way to make reparation for the monotony of our sins—to pray over and over the words of the Angel Gabriel and Saint Elizabeth, the Lord’s prayer, praising the blessed Trinity, and all beginning with the creed! Instead of meditating on those soap operas, how about meditating on the mysteries of the life of our savior!
The Rosary is named the Rosary because it is a reference to roses. When we pray the Hail Mary’s we are giving roses to the Blessed Mother. In German the word is “Rosenkranz”–rose crown. Thus we crown her with roses when we pray. The world is so hurt by metal bullets, so lets pelt the world with hail Mary’s. These “bullets” will be the roses of prayer which we present to the Blessed Mother. Instead of death, life. Instead of pain, joy. Instead of hatred, love. The rosary can be prayed anywhere–in the car, walking, while waiting in line…we can even pray bits and pieces of it as we go through our day.
One day our Lord will reveal to us the fruits of our praying the Rosary every day: disasters that were avoided, assistance to loved ones, conversions, graces for ourselves and others.
Some may mock the rosary as something people who have nothing better to do than to pray. There could be nothing further from the truth, as the rosary is truly a powerful weapon against the devil who seeks to drive the love of God from our hearts. Pray it everyday for a month, this month of May, and look to the fruits. A mother draws her children to love, and it is a mother’s desire to have peace in the home. Our Blessed Mother desires to bring the peace of Christ into our souls, into our homes, and to help us fight those temptations that assail us. She will help fill us with zeal to live for her son, and with her help we will be drawn closer to the heart of Christ faster and more effectively than we ever could on our own.
For an amazing story of the power of the Rosary in modern times, check out this story.
Read Saint Louis de Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosary available online for free
Read Pope Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter on the Rosary
It can be helpful to use a book for meditations on the mysteries of the Rosary. Saint Josemaria Escriva wrote a book, and it can be found here.