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Sunday 27, Year A

In this month of the Rosary, I want to talk to you about this great prayer. In many quarters, it has sadly gone out of fashion and is even regarded by some with contempt. But such people do not know what they are missing. The Rosary is a Mother taking her children through the stages of every human life, because in the human life of Jesus every life discovers its meaning. The Rosary is a road map showing us how to live, and because we are in the company of our Mother and of our Saviour, it ensures that we cannot get lost.

And there are four great stages in the journey of human life, reflected in the four sets of mysteries which we pray in the Rosary. The joyful mysteries speak to our childhood and early youth. The mysteries of light or luminous mysteries speak to taking our place in the world in adult life, letting our gifts and talents shine forth for the good of others. The sorrowful mysteries speak to the reality of pain and suffering which we encounter at different times in our lives, but especially as we grow older. The glorious mysteries speak to the fourth and unending stage of our journey when, please God, the Jesus and Mary who have walked with us in our mortal life are revealed to us face to face in immortality.

Getting right the mechanics of the Rosary can be a bother at the start. But it’s a bit like learning to drive. Once you get the hang of it, you can do it automatically. I won’t go into that here, but it’s easy to find an explanation of what the Rosary beads are, the mysteries and all the rest. And if you can’t find one, ask someone who will know and can teach you. Praying the Rosary, of course, means you want to know, love and follow Christ more closely. It means you believe and trust in Our Lady’s care and intercession. It requires openness of heart. What you are doing is asking the Lord to help you understand your own life by better understanding His. The Rosary is an act of faith.

The first joyful mystery is the Annunciation, which tells us that each of us is created at the moment of conception by the loving will of God. In particular, a mother becomes aware with a sense of wonder that God has blessed her married love and that of her husband with new life. The news of a pregnancy is news that God has created a new human being through the love of husband and wife. It brings a joy that cannot be hidden. And so, the second joyful mystery, the Visitation, depicts Mary, a young Mother, brimming with joy to share her news and to be affirmed in her motherhood by her older cousin Elizabeth, herself also pregnant by God’s doing. Then the baby arrives, the Nativity, the third joyful mystery. As at Bethlehem, the birth of a child brings visitors to see it, to welcome it into the community, to speculate on what the child will be when he/she grows up. The Presentation of the Child in the Temple, the fourth mystery, is like bringing your child for baptism, to consecrate it to God. You are immersing your child into the great life and mystery which created it. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple is when the trouble starts! The age of puberty brings with it restlessness and the beginnings of self-assertion, a necessary prelude to maturity and responsibility.

That maturity and responsibility bring out or manifest the inner light of a person. There is an initiation into the world in which you make a stand for who you are. This is like the first mystery of light, the Baptism of Jesus. He shows His light first through the miracle of Cana, the second mystery of light, and what he showed by the deed of turning water into wine, he then shows forth in words when He proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand, the third mystery of light. In those first three mysteries, you see a man making known who he is, what he can do and what he thinks. Any adult must have this sense of self, knowing his own abilities and his own mind. And as a person does this with constancy and commitment, it will lead to a transformation of self. This will not have the spectacular nature of the Transfiguration of Jesus, the fourth mystery of light, but within himself or herself, a person who lives life out with commitment and responsibility is gradually refining and defining who they are. The fifth mystery of light is the Eucharist. The Eucharist encapsulates the whole mystery of Jesus as the supreme gift of Himself to the world. Every human being who lives authentically leaves behind a legacy, and the greatest legacy we can give is to give ourselves in love for others.

But such self-giving, such authenticity of life and commitment will involve suffering. In the face of suffering we can hesitate, wish or even pray that doing good ought not to bring bad on oneself. This is like the Agony in the Garden, the first sorrowful mystery. The greatness of Christ was to remain faithful to who He was. That is the greatness of any true human being. But it will bring keen physical suffering at times, as in the Scourging at the Pillar, the second sorrowful mystery, mockery and humiliation, as in the Crowning with Thorns, the third sorrowful mystery, and perhaps a long journey of misunderstanding and rejection, like the Way of the Cross, the fourth sorrowful mystery. Then there are those who die for the truth, for the cause of right, as Jesus was Crucified and died on the Cross, which rather than quash the authenticity of his life, sealed it definitively.

The Cross was, then, the very means of His glory, a glory the Father confirmed by raising Him from the dead, the first glorious mystery. We often see the glorious quality of a good person, whether famous or not, in the outpouring of praise after they die. They are “immortalized” and exalted as examples to be emulated. In the case of Jesus, he was exalted to the right hand of the Father in the Ascension, the second glorious mystery. He is not only there as an example to us, but from there He sends the very power we need to be able to live and die like Him. That Power is the Holy Spirit, sent upon the fledgling Church of the Apostles with Mary in the upper room, the third glorious mystery. When famous heroes die, it is not unusual to see movements form around them. In the case of Jesus, it is not the Apostles who form a movement around Him, but Jesus Himself who send His Spirit to gather them together in the Church. At the heart of the Church is Mary, whose fullness of grace and powerful intercession are like the hearth in a home. To prove that what He went through for us and the glorious destiny He gained would be ours, too, Jesus raises Mary from death and assumes Her, body and soul, into heaven, the fourth glorious mystery. The One to whom she gave flesh raises her flesh to be with Him. In the fifth glorious mystery we get a glimpse of the final victory of Jesus when everyone who has believed in Him will be glorified like Himself and like Mary. Christ our King will be wonderful among his saints with Our Lady crowned as their Queen at His side. Among those saints, we hope to be numbered.

Now certainly, Jesus was a man like no other, and we must not reduce His mysteries simply to the pattern of any human life. His conception was miraculous; his transfiguration was likewise a manifestation of his divinity, to say nothing of the Eucharist. So, we cannot say that the Rosary is merely a meditation on human life. However, my point is that the Rosary, by drawing us repeatedly to meditate on that human life which was the most truly human of all, the life of Jesus, sheds profound light and wisdom upon our own life’s journey, as individuals and as Church. Since Our Lady had the privileged role of accompanying Jesus throughout that life, even to the throne of heaven, there is no better guide than she to help us know our deepest selves in the deepest truths of the Mysteries of the Rosary.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us and pray with us that Christ your Son may fill us with grace and truth. Amen.