The greatest obstacle in the spiritual life is not knowing your need for God, your need for a savior. In what ways am I in denial of my deepest need? If we are honest, we will discover that there is a part of us that does not like to acknowledge our need for God, our need for a savior. The hardness of heart which prevents spiritual growth is rooted in this unholy ignorance of the truth. If the truth “sets us free” then lies “hold us bound”. The idea that I do not need God, do not need a savior, is a damn lie.
An essential grace is to know your need for God, your need for a savior. “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else” (Luke 18:9). An honest self-assessment of one’s sins, weaknesses and failures can open the heart in humility to receive the life-giving healing that only comes from God’s grace.
Pray for the grace to know your need, to know it in your head and your heart.
Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR St. Joseph Friary, New York, NY
1st Joyful Mystery- The Annunciation
God, who is all knowing and all powerful, and who created all that is, chooses to
reveal his sovereignty in a way unlike earthly kings and rulers. He does not use tanks, planes or weapons to impose his law. He does not threaten with starvation and persecution those who will not follow him. Rather, he chooses a poor and lowly teenage girl from Nazareth to bring into the world his very own son. Knowing beforehand the fate that awaits this Son, God still acts and inspires Mary to say yes to this incredible mystery. She, a mere creature, will carry within her womb God himself. At the sound of Mary’s yes all creation stands in awe.
2nd Joyful Mystery- The Visitation
In her womb Mary possesses the only one who can heal the human heart, a heart
that is so often confused, lonely, divided and afraid and one that is waiting patiently to be shown its destiny. Therefore, she cannot remain idle. After receiving this great news Mary does not isolate herself from others. In haste she visits her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, to help her in her need and to proclaim the marvels that God has accomplished in her. Both Elizabeth and Mary are living testimonies of the fidelity of God’s promises. A God who has promised to be a healer, a savior and a friend, has once again fulfilled his word.
3rd Joyful Mystery- The Nativity
In a particular place and at a particular moment, God enters our world as one of
us. He has feet to walk and run with, hands to hold and receive and eyes to look with and cry with. He is fully God and fully human. He looks like us and can taste our desire for love. It was not enough for him to remain tucked behind the heavens. He needed to expose himself and to make himself vulnerable so that no person would ever doubt his love. The unthinkable has occurred; God has become man, so that we might be able to come unto God.
4th Joyful Mystery- The Presentation
Simeon and Anna have lived their entire lives believing in the love of God. Day
in and day out they fasted, prayed and trusted in His promises. In the face of doubt they believed, and when confronted with despair they hoped. When others had mocked God and turned away from him they simply remained faithful and continued to believe in the goodness of God. Now their patient endurance has paid off. All their prayers, sufferings and sacrifices have been heard. The child Jesus is brought to them and their desire to see God is finally satisfied. They are left in a state of childlike joy. It is all worth it, they remind us, the trials, the temptations, the restlessness and the sufferings of this life. It is all worth it they remind us, because God has taken on flesh and now we can touch him and allow him to dry our tears of loneliness.
5th Joyful Mystery- The Finding of the child Jesus in the Temple
The child Jesus is in his Father’s home, listening to the wisdom of those engaged
their in discussion. Their wisdom, unfortunately, is not enough. The child Jesus has
many questions that astound the elders. “Who is this child?” “Who is his teacher?” they ask. Rather than revealing himself more fully to them, Jesus must return to Nazareth and live the life of a regular young man first. The time of revelation will come, but first Jesus must go home to work, play and experience first hand what it means to be human. Meanwhile, Mary looks at him with both fascination and wonder. He who was prophesied to her by an angel, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and who astounded the elders in the temple now looks to her for comfort, consolation and strength.
The Luminous Mysteries
1 st Luminous Mystery-Baptism of Jesus
Even though John baptizes Jesus he knows that he is the one who should be baptized. John knows he is a sinner, a man of repentance, in need of new life. Yet he also knows that he cannot fulfill these needs on his own. Still, John humbly submits to Jesus’ request for baptism so that the whole world would follow Jesus into the waters of repentance and new life.
In Baptism we have all been “reborn” and adopted by God. We are no longer alone, in need of an identity and meaning for our life. Jesus has fulfilled those requests and with him and because of him our lives acquire a purpose that transcends our deepest imagination. Now, because of our baptism we live immersed in the hope of eternal life.
2 nd Luminous Mystery-Wedding of Cana
Mary, like an attentive mother, perceives the needs of those around her. She feels their pain, their confusion, their desire for love and all the other experiences of the human heart. Like a loving mother, Mary takes all her children into her heart so that when they suffer she suffers. She is the epitome of compassion and kindness and all that is beautiful about life.
Yet Mary’s strength does not lie within herself nor does she ever pretend to be the fulfillment of the worlds needs. Her strength comes in pointing beyond herself and in believing in a loving God and trusting that his word would prevail over sin and death.
Mary’s words to the waiter at the wedding, “Do whatever he tells you,” is not a simple and pious suggestion from a devout Jew. It is the wisdom of the pure in heart that are able to see God and show us the way to him.
3 rd Luminous Mystery-The Proclamation of the Kingdom
So often we think of heaven as a place, a space separated from the confines of this world, a world that we have often condemned as not being beautiful enough to satisfy the need for an eternal rest. Yet who among us could have ever guessed that heaven is not particularly a place but a person, a person who has visited this broken world and proclaimed the good news of God’s love and mercy?
Heaven has visited this earth! In the words and actions of Jesus heaven is revealed as mercy, freedom, love and forgiveness and so near to us that most often we will miss it, because it appears as something too majestic for us to touch. In Jesus, the kingdom of God is at hand, heaven now stands open and the mystery of that “place” is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
4 th Luminous Mystery-The Transfiguration
Jesus appears in dialogue with the two great prophets of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah; for he is the fulfillment of all the prophets spoke and wrote about. He is that jealous lover, the one espoused forever to his children and the one who places a new heart in man enabling him to find peace and happiness.
On the top of the mountain the Father leaves us with a command. “Listen to him,” he says, because without his words we are left drowning in the sea of our own confusion, and without his words we are mystery that cannot be solved. The words of Jesus are not the words of mere men; they are the words of hope from a God who comes to save his people.
5 th Luminous Mystery-The Institution of the Eucharist
On the eve of his death, it was not enough for Jesus to leave us with only a speech or a photograph of himself; No, he wanted to leave us himself, his very body and blood for us to adore, consume and become one with. For God being only a happy memory is not good enough, he wants to be a continual presence, and possess a permanent place in our lives.
The mystery of the Eucharist is the mystery of God’s love. It is the story of a God who does not abandon his people, who feeds them, nourishes them and strengthens them for the journey of life. In the Eucharist we receive the food that can truly sustain us and make us holy. Every other attempt to find life outside of the Eucharist will end in disappointment.
1 st Sorrowful Mystery-The Agony in the Garden
Jesus’ hour has arrived! He knows the destiny that awaits him and can taste its horror in the depths of his being. Betrayal, condemnation, mockery, beatings and death, are all knocking at the door of Jesus’ heart. Despite the fear Jesus experiences in his humanity he moves forward, ready to fulfill the Father’s will and to bring salvation to the entire world.
God has abandoned himself into the hands of men. After teaching the world about God’s love and mercy the people turned on him like a pack of wild dogs. How suddenly they forgot the healings, the mercy, the forgiveness and the love that Jesus brought! Now, as the soldiers come to arrest Jesus, God begins to unveil the fullness of his love.
2 nd Sorrowful Mystery- The Scourging at the Pillar
The crowd has spoken. Instead of releasing the humble and meek Lamb of God they have chosen to release a criminal, one who has inflicted pain and suffering upon others. Pilate, fearing the opinions of others and unable to heed the warning of his wife concerning this “righteous man,” is not strong enough to defend the truth. Like a coward, he collapses before the truth has Jesus scourged.
Now, the innocent and holy one stands before the soldiers and is beaten almost to the point of death. His flesh, once so soft and gentle, now becomes a river of blood. The Savior of the world is forced again to his knees, almost overwhelmed by the flogging his body has endured. Yet with you and me in the depths of his heart he stands up, ready to endure even more.
3 rd Sorrowful Mystery-The Crowning of Thorns
The arrogance and the stupidity of the soldiers increase. They make a crown of thorns and place it upon Jesus’ head and pretend to pay him homage. They believe that a king, a God, a man of importance could not be so humble, gentle, loving and peaceful. They believe that power and greatness is revealed in the ability to conquer those who oppose them by force.
Little do they know that very soon the glory of God will shine forth. Before them is a king, one who will conquer by love and bestow forgiveness and mercy upon fallen man. Yet for now, theirfoolishness continues and Jesus must suffer the humiliation.
4 th Sorrowful Mystery-The Carrying of the Cross
The wood of the cross is placed upon Jesus’ shoulders. Inside the wood is the weight of our sins; our betrayals, our pride, our lust, our indifference, our selfishness and so many other actions that have placed us far from the heart of God. Is it any wonder this weight causes Jesus to fall three times? It is a weight too heavy to ask any man to bear, even the God-man.
Here the question that plagues man’s heart from all eternity is finally answered. “Does God love me?”
Jesus can only kiss the cross crushing down upon his shoulders because he is too tired to speak. But the cross is enough; it is a joyful affirmation of humanity’s need to be loved.
5 th Sorrowful Mystery-The Crucifixion
God is dead! He hangs on the cross, naked, and bearing the wounds of abuse he suffered from the hands of men. Jesus and the kingdom of God he preached appear to be defeated. Only Mary, a few other women and John remained with him the whole way through. It was too much for the other disciples; like children besieged by fear, they fled and tried to hide themselves from the horror before them.
Yet despite the darkness and the chaos that fills this moment there is a light that radiates from heaven. It shines upon the cross and whispers words of comfort to those able to hear. “Do not be afraid. Behold, I make all things new!”