Like many millions of people across the globe you may already be praying the Rosary on Thursdays. Worldpriest is now naming each Thursday as Rosary Thursday, and invites you to offer your Rosary on that day for the sanctification of priests, which is the Global Rosary Relay intention.
In 2002 Pope John Paul II invited Catholics to pray the Mysteriesof Light on Thursdays. These Mysteries focus on the public life of Jesus, the Light of the world. Included are Jesus’ Baptism, Cana, his revealing of God’s Kingdom, his Transfiguration and the institution of the Eucharist. These Mysteries fit well with what Worldpriest is about.
The Baptism of the Lord
I had an old aunt who believed that if our family were to get on in life, high connections were all-important.
Before his baptism, Jesus seems to have had no influential family relationships; he is known simply as ‘the son of the carpenter’. But his baptism reveals him as having the highest of all connections: he is none other than the Son of God. But because he is fully human he is related to us—a poor set of connections indeed– and so we belong to him and to his divine family. Through him we become the adopted sons and daughters of God. So through this Mystery of his baptism the whole history of humankind is changed. My aunt had had the right idea: we have in fact the highest possible connections!
All the mysteries of Jesus’ life carry a message about us. So the Father’s affirmation of Jesus as his well-beloved Son reveals something of extraordinary importance about us, that we too are the beloved children of God. The Father is well pleased with us because we are Jesus’ sisters and brothers. Jesus’ baptism illuminates not only his divine reality but that of all of us. Adopted into divine life, we too have a joyful destiny. Behind Jesus’ baptism and all the luminous mysteries, the greatest mystery of all is being revealed: that we belong to God’s family, and that as Pope Francis says, when everything is said and done we are infinitely loved. This all-important truth, of course, must transform our attitude to our neighbours, because now we know that they, like us, have divine connections!
Entering into the Scene
The mysteries of Jesus’ life more easily reach our hearts through imagining than through reasoning. So it helps to imagine each scene just as you might recall an important event in your own life. Settle then in a quiet place and try to become still… Imagine the river Jordan… the crowds… the heat, the noise… John the Baptist… the atmosphere as John preaches… the hope in many hearts that the Messiah is coming… You scan the queue and notice Jesus… you get close and talk with him… you listen to his conversation with John… He steps into the river… the water is poured… the dove appears…You hear the voice of the Father from above revealing Jesus as the beloved Son of God… Afterwards you talk with Jesus and listen in a deeper way to what he says, as the Father has asked you to… You end by thanking him for sharing with you the mystery of who he is, and also who you truly are…. You part from him enriched in heart and mind, and promise to meet up with him soon again.
The Wedding at Cana
God’s Glad Surprises
When God enters human life, the result is glad surprise: ordinary situations are transformed. This is because God is simply good, always loving, and ready to help us in the ways that are best for us. So at Cana an abundance of excellent wine suddenly appears from nowhere, and everyone is happily surprised–the waiters, the master of the feast, the bridegroom and the guests. Mary too must have been over-joyed, since she had no idea what was going to happen. In Jesus’ action the veil of heaven is drawn back a moment, and God is revealed as caring, sensitive, wanting to bring us joy. Later in the Gospel Jesus himself will be revealed as the true bridegroom of our race, the One who will provide all we need to have life to the full. The gift of eternal life is hinted at in Cana: we are being shown, as the liturgy puts it, that God is the One from whom all good things come to us.
Most of those present would not have known that God had intervened: they simply found that they had good wine in plenty. But his disciples caught on to the Mystery and believed in him. The event sparked their faith. They made the connection with hints given in the Hebrew scriptures: that God loves feasts and happy guests; that God promises excellent wine, and that God can transform ordinary things by a single word. They would also have known that God likes to work anonymously through ordinary people who trust him. So it was with the servants: they quietly obeyed him. Suppose you’d been one of them, would you have filled your jar to the brim? After all, you might have said, 24 gallons is a lot of water, and for what? But the feast would have been the poorer for your lack of faith. Or suppose Mary had got huffy at Jesus’ rebuke and had turned away in anger instead of tactfully saying to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’?But because of her deep faith she ‘knew’ –as women often do in dealing with men–that Jesus would respond rightly, although he had just said he would not get involved. Even the water was obedient: as a poet said, the water saw its Creator and blushed.
Entering into the Scene
It is easy to insert yourself into this wedding scene… The banqueting hall… the guests dressed in their best… the atmosphere… You are sitting close to Mary and hear her speak to her son… she grows silent at his response, but then speaks to the servants… Then Jesus tells them what to do, and they obey… slowly the water-pots are filled… Jesus speaks again and the servants suddenly notice what has happened to the water… You watch astonished as the MC tastes it and commends the amazed bridegroom… Jesus slips away, but you follow him, to explore this Mystery with him… Like the disciples, your faith in him takes a significant step forward…
The Proclamation of the Kingdom
God’s New World Order
World leaders often take it upon themselves to propose a new world order: usually this means putting their country’s interests and themselves first, often at the expense of others. Thus it was with Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler. Jesus too proclaims a new world order, but it has everyone’s best interests at heart, and has no boundaries. His new world order overarches every human world order. His is a kingdom of just and loving relationships, and includes forgiveness, even of enemies. This is what the Kingdom of God is about.
The Christian Community
The kingdom of God is already under way. The Christian community expresses, even if very imperfectly, what God intends. God’s heart is set on gathering into one all the scattered children of God; the divine goal is the salvation of everyone, and of the cosmos. The three divine Persons are at the heart of this community, so it is of divine origin, and will not fail. Starting as a tiny seed, it grows in its own time and will yield a full harvest.
God’s Good News
The proclamation of the kingdom of God is rightly called Good News, because it reveals that God is on our side, sin is forgiven, suffering is given new meaning, and eternal joy becomes our promised inheritance. In this kingdom the only rule is that of love. The poor and the humble, the sinners and outcasts, are amazed to find themselves invited into it. Those who lord it over others are also invited, but must change to become like little children who accept everything with wonder: for them all is gift. We belong in God’s kingdom when we live in right and loving relationships and keep our eyes on God when making our daily choices.
God’s Vision for Us
The divine kingdom emerges from infinite love and answers our deepest yearnings for freedom, respect, inclusion, security, happiness, peace. Its goal is to liberate each of us from what dominates us, so that we may come to enjoy life to the full. The United Nations expresses something of what God has in mind, a caring world in which everyone is for the others, and God is for us all.
Entering into the Scene
Imagine Jesus preaching from the boat on the lake… His voice… the stories and images he conjures up… You are there, drinking in his words… you feel he is talking to you, inviting you into a new way of seeing yourself and your small world… You could listen to him all day, because he seems to have a unique awareness of what life’s about… When you catch him on his own you chat with him about yourself and what the kingdom can mean for you…
The Transfiguration of the Lord
The Transfiguration of Jesus is the most luminous of his mysteries. It gives a glimpse of his glory that was otherwise hidden from the disciples. It builds on what is revealed about him in his Baptism. St Peter refers to his own experience of it when he says, ‘We saw his glory!’ Glory is a rich word: it indicates someone’s importance which radiates out to others. Jesus is given this moment of glory so that we can see how important he is in the Father’s plan for the salvation of the world.
In the Transfiguration Jesus is shown as belonging to the world of the divine. But he is not a solitary figure there. He is in solidarity with us, his brothers and sisters, through the Incarnation; and what he is by nature we become by adoption. Day by day we are becoming sharers of his divine nature, as the Eucharist reminds us. So we too already carry a hidden glory: we are destined to share eternal life with God in the world to come. We may be ‘small people’, sick, ageing, in trouble, despairing: but we are made for glory. We will become first-born citizens of heaven; we shall become like God because we shall see him as he is. God who makes all things new will crown us with glory and honour, and give us the morning star! Memories of earthly suffering will be totally eclipsed by the glory which will be revealed in us.
In this mystery we are also shown the hidden glory in our neighbour whom we may happen to dislike or disapprove of! There are no ordinary mortals walking this earth, only extraordinary immortals, and in our interactions we must keep this in mind. My neighbour, no matter how disfigured, problematic or seemingly useless, is full of potential glory. Every ‘nobody’ will be shown to be a ‘somebody’ before whom you would be tempted to kneel down and worship! Perhaps the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies gives a tiny hint of what God dreams for each of us.
Entering into the Scene
I hear that Jesus is going mountain-climbing and I ask to come… We climb, up and up and up… There is no small talk: Jesus is wrapped in concentration. I’m glad when we reach the top and can sit and admire the view… I watch Jesus entering into prayer… Then I notice in amazement that he is becoming luminous… Two figures appear… They talk of some great suffering that will come upon him, and I am dismayed… Then I hear the same voice and words I heard at his Baptism…I remain riveted until the vision fades… As we descend the mountain I ask him what the event has meant for him, and he tells me… Then he smiles at me and says, ‘It’s all about you too!’
The Institution of the Eucharist
In the Eucharist Jesus is revealed as being totally given over for us. Note how he emphasises the word for: ‘This is my body, which is given for you… This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’. Through the Eucharist we best see that our God is a giving God, giving indeed not less than everything to us, for our salvation. Jesus is so generous: ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ The Eucharist reveals the depths of God’s relationship with us: nothing is held back. I must reciprocate!
In the Eucharist creation finds its greatest exaltation: matter is consecrated and becomes part of divinity. The Eucharist, rooted in this material world of ours, joins together heaven and earth. It is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of divine love and the fountain of inexhaustible life for us. It is the supreme act of cosmic love, because even when celebrated in a humble setting, it is celebrated on the altar of the world, since all creation is interconnected.
Communion with the Holy
Since friendship can properly exist only between equals, our friendship with God requires that we be raised up to the level of the divine. Our divinisation, our becoming like God, is the mystery around which all the Luminous Mysteries are woven. The pages of the New Testament rustle with this secret, that we shall be changed and become truly the daughters and sons of God. Meetings with God are transforming events, and in the Eucharist we meet God whom we need more than anything else in the world. Pope Francis stresses that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but medicine and nourishment for the weak. We share a divine meal which strengthens us to live our lives with ever-greater love.
Love that Forgives
Often we feel betrayed by others, and are tempted to retaliate or exclude them from our hearts: but it was precisely on the night when he was betrayed that Jesus instituted the Eucharist, and we are invited to share his forgiving love with those who wrong us. Always he is trying to build or restore relationships, and so must I, even as far as seventy times seven!
Entering into the Scene
I imagine the Upper Room.. I help in preparing the Paschal Meal…. I sit near to Jesus, beside the beloved disciple… My heart thrills when he looks around the table and thanks us for standing by him in his time of trial… I allow him to wash my feet, though it leaves me awestruck to feel his hands on my feet and to watch his face as he does it… I watch his hands again as he takes bread, blesses and breaks it, and shares it round… Then the cup… Dimly perhaps I understand that like the bread and wine, I am being taken over by God and am to be shared with the world… I am meant to be nourishing to others…