The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary Inspire Joyful Witnesses to the Gospel

“To meditate upon the joyful mysteries … is to enter into the ultimate causes and the deepest meaning of Christian joy.” (Pope St. John Paul II)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, “The Nativity,” ca. 1665-1670
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, “The Nativity,” ca. 1665-1670 (photo: Public Domain)

The world would tell us that joy and peace are possible only when everything is perfect, when all tasks are finished. However, if we look at the lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph reflected in the joyful mysteries of the Rosary, we know that the greatest joys came through struggle, through suffering, when everything was far from perfect. Through the joyful mysteries, God gives us a glimpse into how to weather the trials each of us faces in this world.

First Joyful Mystery — The Annunciation. In the Annunciation, when Mary received and assented to the Good News that she’d been offered the great grace of being the Mother of God, from a worldly perspective, saying “yes” would bring a heart pierced by a sword. How do we respond to the unknown, to the fears that come with the unknown of cooperating with God’s will even when it is hard, even when it will involve a lifelong challenge? We imitate Mary. We say, “Yes,” and we trust that whatever God’s plan is, it is bigger than ours, and oriented toward bringing as many souls as possible to Heaven.

Second Joyful Mystery — The Visitation. Mary’s journey to her cousin Elizabeth allows Christ to visit his cousin John even as both are within the womb. Travel for a young woman, even in service of her kin, would still have involved sacrifice and effort. Service to another, when she herself was in the same state, would have required great selflessness. Their meeting brought joy to Elizabeth, to Mary, to John and to Jesus. What is one of the lessons of this mystery? Service and selflessness and sacrifice, when born out of love, brings joy to all who give and all who receive, even though it requires much effort.

Third Joyful Mystery — The Nativity. The circumstances of our Lord’s birth could hardly be described as ideal or pristine, and yet in this cave surrounded by beasts, our Lord allowed himself to be born, to suffer cold and all the discomforts that come with being a helpless infant in this world. His Incarnation caused the shepherds and magi to gaze in wonder, the heavens to break forth in song and proclaim, “Joy to the world.” So in this moment, when want and need and even the threat of doom and death seemed to be all there is, joy bursts forward all over the world in response.

Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation. When Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the Temple, Mary must contend with the prophecy of Simeon — “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” These words hardly comfort, and yet knowing that Jesus is the Christ allows her to keep in her heart this prophecy that one day her heart, Christ himself, will be pierced. To those of us facing a bad diagnosis or hard piece of news, knowing that Mary took into her heart and trusted God’s goodness shows us again how to go forward, and how to face what is to come.

Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding in the Temple. Losing Our Lord had to frighten Mary and Joseph as nothing else, and those three days of not knowing emphasize to us that when we do not know (which is often), we must trust Our Loving Father who does. Anyone who would seek Christ will also find God the Father, and anyone who trusts God the Father will find Christ. The Holy Spirit will see to it, guiding our footsteps and encouraging our actions, so that we can weather the anxiety of not knowing. These days, the plague of anxiety is a near constant if we do not hold tightly to the deeper reality of God’s ever-present, all-enveloping love. Even in these uncertain times, most especially in our trials and sufferings, God is ever present and offering us his infinite embrace. Jesus being about his Father’s business, is seeking to be found and offering himself to us at every Mass, in the Scriptures, and in all the opportunities we have to respond to the world sacrificially on a daily basis.

It is the task of every follower of Jesus to be a joyful witness to the Good News, and there is no circumstance in which we cannot proclaim the great goodness of our Lord and his offer of salvation both now, and in the world yet to come.

Nicolas Poussin, “Sts. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man,” 1655 — “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” ... He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.” [Acts 3:6, 8].

No Reason for Being Sad

“For man was made an intelligent and free member of society by God who created him, but even more important, he is called as a son to commune with God and share in his happiness.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 21)