THE FIVE JOYFUL MYSTERIES
The First Joyful Mystery: – The Annunciation
“You will conceive in your womb and bear a son…”
“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God…”
A virgin girl is pregnant. Has that even been heard of? She is betrothed to a guy called Joseph. She needs to go and tell him. Imagine the look on Joseph’s face when he hears such news. It is ridiculous. He eventually hears the rumors anyway. He plans to abandon her in secret. What will her future be? She wonders. How will she bring up this mysterious child who no one will believe she conceived through means unheard of? The moral dilemma of pregnancy. And truth be told, every time a mother learns of a pregnancy, she has very difficult conversations with herself. It is crazier if the baby daddy has hit the roof jumping responsibility. What will my parents do? How do I move on? Am I even ready for this child? But my life was really planned out. What happens to my dreams now that there is a baby involved? Can I afford? I have enough children already. My husband doesn’t want any more children. Should I procure an abortion? I am having twins, how will I manage?
It is okay to question our capacity. It is good to have a conversation with ourselves. It is okay to be worried. It is okay to hit the roof. It is okay to be excited and anxious at the same time. It is okay to be troubled. It is okay to cry because we do not know what the future holds. It is okay to even ask ourselves if we have a future. It is also okay to remember what Mary said at the end of her conversation with the Angel. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, Be done to me according to your word”.
Life will challenge us. It will humiliate us. It will embarrass us. It will uplift us. It will humble us. It will reward our effort. It will frustrate our values. It will put our morals to test. May we remember to surrender to the will of the Father? May we always know that He will not challenge us beyond our capacity? He will not take us to places His graces cannot sustain us. We need to remember His promises. I will be with you until the end of time. If only we believe. If only we accept. If only we surrender.
The Second Joyful Mystery: – The Visitation
Mary in her conversation with the angel Gabriel is informed that her cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant. She who was said to be barren is expectant, six months! She with haste rushes off to see her relative.
- To congratulate her? Maybe. Annunciation of a pregnancy comes with lots of mixed feelings, but most of it is pure joy. Conception from a person who has been trying for a very long time is an event for celebration. Mary wants to share in this joy.
- To have an intimate conversation with? Maybe. She wants to tell her controversial news. She seeks to be understood. How does one understand her controversy? Would I understand? No! How now, I know how people get pregnant. But from the Holy Spirit? She also probably wants to seek counsel. She has news that has scared her fiancé and he wants to leave her. What to do? Elizabeth was much older, she had more experiences to share with her. She was a Godly person. She could confide in her and expect her fears, worries and insecurities to be allayed. She could trust her not to open reveal her secrets to any willing ear. She could lean on her. She could believe in her direction. She could bask in her words knowing that they were not going to be malicious or judging. She could bare her soul and still not feel naked.
- To assist her during her belly mama days? Maybe. Pregnancies come with many challenges. To some ill health, to some fatigue, to some mood swings. As pregnancies advance, normal activities like picking up a fallen item becomes an uphill task. Belly mamas need assistance almost always because their bodies are not theirs for a very long while. They need help in activities that require elevation, they need help in carrying bulky things, they need help in mobility, and they need help in seating and standing and even turning in bed. Belly mamas need a lot of help. I have called people to go shopping with me when I was too dizzy to walk on my own in the streets of Nairobi. I have requested for assisted help when I was put on bed rest. I have phoned, a friend to drive me to hospital because I could not take one more step. They understood I needed help. They offered to help. We know that Mary stayed with her for a while. She understood the help she needed. She offered it.
We all find ourselves in situations where we need an Elizabeth. We need to confide in someone who will not judge us, who will not use our deep, down, dirty shame against us, who will not open their lips to reveal our secrets to anyone who is willing to listen. We need someone who we can trust to give us sound advice when we are in crazy situations. Who will not question how we got there in the first place, who will be an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on. We need someone who will be harsh and loving with their advice, who will be solid when we are mellow with emotion and swaying in the storm. We need someone who will encourage us to become the very best of ourselves, not curve us to suit their perception of who we ought to be. We need wind beneath our wings so we can soar higher. We need someone to be our sanity when we are foolish. We all need an Elizabeth.
Many times, there is always someone who needs our help. Can we see their plea before they ask for it? Can we walk with them without them needing to ask us?
The Third Joyful Mystery: – The Nativity
Every year, we commemorate the Birth of Christ. We celebrate his birthday. We decorate our houses. We buy new clothes, gifts and cards. We share moments with our families. We sing carols. We attend mass. We trans-night. And New Year comes, then another Christmas. What does Christmas even mean to us?
Mary and her spouse needed to go to Bethlehem for a census. The town is flooded with people from all over who had come for the census. All the inns are full. Mary’s baby says, hey mama, time is now. A place needs to be found where she can deliver. The only available place is a stable. And she gave birth to a Son in this stable, and he was laid in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.
When we look at things from the human perspective, especially in terms of preparing for new born, Mary’s life is very grim and her baby’s arrival is quite unplanned and Joseph probably was a very troubled man. Every man wishes to give the very best to their spouses; here he was and all he could accord his wife’s delivery was a stable and baby a manger. But heaven is at a standstill, stars are shining down on this baby. There are people from far away visiting to bring gifts to the new born. I picture Mary shedding a tear or two as she holds her miracle baby. It is a joyful moment, in spite of the environmental challenges. We should also strive to appreciate and be happy for and during our Christmas moments, regardless of what the environment is dictating. We get a new job, let’s rejoice we got the job and let’s not sulk because of the uncertainty of relocation; we get a promotion, we rejoice for the new job challenge not complain of the bad immediate boss; we got a scholarship we rejoice, our friends got a baby, we share in their joy. Life is generally wrapped up in sad, challenging and happy moments. We should aim not to miss the Christmas moments in our daily endeavors. That smile, that compliment, that thank you, that wake up moment, the blessings of our day, that call checking on us, that random gift, that date night with the girls, that shared coffee, that act of kindness from your spouse. We should not take them for granted. Because, in as much as our life is a hustle and bustle of activities, our Christmas moments light up the day and make us sleep with a smile when darkness kicks out the last rays of day.
The Five Joyful Mysteries: – The presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
Jewish custom dictates that Mary needed to go to the Temple for purification rites. Jesus also needed to be presented before the Lord as was customary for all first borns (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opened the womb shall be called holy to the Lord – Luke 2:23). When Simeon received Jesus into the temple, he sighed with relief, At last, God’s servant could rest in peace according to God’s promise that he could not see death before he beheld Christ in his arms. He was ready to die because he had encountered Christ. An encounter with Christ is a promise for eternity. With a promise and a hope for eternity, we can brave the challenges of today knowing that everything is temporary. Everything is temporary, everything passes, including our life. Are we ready for eternity? Can we sit and say, At last, Oh God I am ready to go home? Are we ready to embrace the joy we are promised in eternity? What is holding us back here? Have we done all we need to do? Do we want extra time to finish up our assignment? Can we live our life in such a way that we are always ready, not indebted in anyway, whether to ourselves or our loved ones?
After his reminiscent monologue, Simeon made a prophecy to Mary, “A sword shall pierce your heart”. And her heart was indeed pierced as evidenced in the seven sorrows of Mother Mary. The first sorrow being the prophecy itself. It disturbed her that this man would prophesy sorrow over her life. She did not understand. Was it out of hate? As far as she knew, He was a servant of God who worked in the temple. They had never met personally, but he just told her she would be pierced with a sword through her heart. She did not know if it was to be taken literally. Though with all her doubts and worries she kept it all in her heart. Then she lost her son? The pain of a lost child we can identify with. We have seen a rising number of posts of missing children. The sorrows and worries of these losses and the joy of reunion. Herod wanted the child dead and they had to flee. They had to live in exile so their child could be safe. Then came the passion death and burial of Jesus. He is not a child anymore. But a mother will always see the child in her children. In the most vulnerable states, a mother will always recognize the infant in her child, no matter how old. They wish they could take them away from the pain, just like the hugs and cuddles did when they were young. This caused pain, a lot of pain to Mary. She bore it all with grace.
Many times we assume that since we present ourselves to Christ, since we profess our faith and we agree to follow Him, our life will be painless. We assume that we will not suffer. The controversy most Jews had in that time; they knew Jesus was the King of the Jews, but they did not understand why they had to suffer in the presence of the King. But the King Himself instructed us to take up our crosses and follow him. Crosses are heavy. Crosses have thorns. Crosses have rough edges. Crosses wear us out. But trudging we must to follow Christ. We shall experience sorrows in our journey of following Christ, just like Mary experienced. We shall get broke and disoriented, we shall be fought because we do not share views with others, and we shall lose our loved ones. We shall suffer diseases unknown to this world of medicine, or incurable. We shall be victims of war and natural calamities. We shall be victims of slander. We shall be accused of things we have not even dared of thinking to do, let alone doing them. We shall be misunderstood. Our efforts will be shunned. We are however called to bear this sorrows with Grace, just like Mother Mary does. Knowing that in Christ, we will have the strength to sing and dance in the rain. We should remember that it is all a journey to eternity. And once all is done here on earth, we shall tell God we are ready to go in peace. He promised us eternity, but we have to live on earth as children of eternity.
The fifth Joyful Mystery: – The finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, after the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. They realized this after one day of the return journey. They went back to look for him and found him after three days. His brilliant answer to his parents who had frantically searched for him for three days was, He had to be in His father’s house. What indifference!
Our life will be presented with similar situations of loss. Mary thought they had lost Jesus. They were devastated. They found him in God’s temple. Their peace was restored. In the presence of the Lord, we will find peace. We will find restoration. We will find calm. It doesn’t mean that our hearts will not be tormented. But in that torment we will be at peace. Mary didn’t understand what Christ meant when He told them he needed to be in His father’s house. They did not understand why he said they should not have looked for Him. Which parent wouldn’t look for their 12 year old lost child? It was normal for them to be worried. It was okay for them to be frantic. But Christ is telling them, there is no need to be frantic on the things that are of this world. We need to find peace and calm in the presence of the Lord. We need to bring all our worries, doubts, anxieties, and restlessness to God. In His presence we shall find peace.
There is another fact that I need to mention here. Finding Christ was such a joyous moment, but Christ made it such an anti-climax. Finding a lost child and re-uniting the child with the family is a very happy occasion worth celebrating. As it turned out, Christ thwarted their efforts. “Why were you looking for me, don’t you know I needed to be in my Father’s house?” There are those anti-climax moments in our lives, when we put so much effort expecting a compliment that never comes, a recognition for our efforts, a wage raise that keeps being postponed, a holiday that the boss keeps denying us, a love that is not forthcoming, a recognition or award that goes to that redundant employee who is the supervisors friend, a government that delivers on its promises, yet all we hear for the effort we have put is, “why were you doing it in the first place”. It brings us back to a crucial realization on our intentions when we do what we do. Do we work hard at work so that the boss can notice? Do we love others so that we can be loved back? Do we put effort in relationships so that we can receive a form of reward? Do we visit our parents so that the neighbors know we are around? Do we buy them gifts so people know how kind we are? Are we kind so that we can splash our kindness on social media? Are our intentions pure? Are we sharing for sharing’s’ sake? Do we love for love’s sake? Are we present for the sake of our presence? Are we searching for the lost Jesus so we can tell him how much we really searched and He can appreciate our effort of searching for Him, or so that we can really find Him and enjoy the intimacy of His presence in our lives?