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Pondering the Joyful Mysteries

This morning I was praying the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. For non-Catholics, who aren’t familiar, the joyful mysteries are the first five events of the beginning of Jesus’ life, found in the Gospel of Luke:


1.) The Annunciation in Luke 1.26-38 where the angel Gabriel announces to Mary God’s plan she bear a son.


2.) The Visitation in Luke 1:39–56 where Mary then visits Elizabeth and John the Baptist leaps in her womb.


3.) The Nativity in Luke 2:1-20 where Jesus is born in a stable in Bethlehem.


4.) The Presentation in Luke 2:22–40 where Mary and Joseph present baby Jesus in the temple and they encounter the prophets Simeon and Anna.


5.) The Finding in the Temple in Luke 2:41-47 where Mary and Joseph lose Jesus and then find Him in the temple preaching and teaching the elders.


We call these the Joyful Mysteries because at their core, they are “joyful” events.


— Jesus is conceived.

— John leaps.

— Jesus is born.

— Simeon sees the Messiah.

— Jesus is found.


But this morning, while praying through these, I was reminded that, for Mary and Joseph, these were not joyful events at all. At least not at first.


As in all things, there’s another side to the story.


At the Annunciation, Mary accepted pregnancy. This could have meant the end of her marriage to Joseph as well as the end of her actual life. Infidelity (as her pregnancy would have be seen then) was worthy of stoning in those days.


At the Visitation, Mary travelled a great distance on foot or donkey (while pregnant) to go SERVE her elderly cousin. This was not a vacation.


At the Nativity, Mary and Joseph were essentially homeless and holding up in a sort of barn with animals. Not exactly the cozy labor and delivery suite.


At the Presentation, Simeon prophesied the death of Jesus, His rejection by their people, and the utter heartache it would cause Mary. “And a sword shall pierce your heart also.”


The Finding in the Temple was just that: a finding. Which means Jesus was first lost. For three days, Mary and Joseph scoured Jerusalem for their missing child. Without cell phones, without Facebook, without a ping or location services.


This morning, while praying what we’ve always called “The Joyful Mysteries,” I was reminded that real, true joy is not an “island” kind of emotion. It’s not something that can only be experienced when you’re miles away from hardship.


In fact, real, true joy often descends into our hearts on the very wings of adversity and hardship. That is, if we are patient and watching.


— He comes in our fear of the future and our confusion about how it will all work out (like at the Annunciation)


— He comes in our service and duty to our family and neighbors in need (like at the Visitation)


— He comes in our poverty, want, and rejection (like at the Nativity)


— He comes in our heartache for our children and all those we love (like at the Presentation)


— He comes in our great and agonizing loss of those who we can no longer see or touch (like at the Finding in the Temple)


In difficult moments like these, and so many others, Jesus comes to us… flickering in dark moments like fireflies flickering on a dark summer night.


— He comes to dwell inside of us (like at the Annunciation)


— He comes via a friend (like at the Visitation)


— He comes into our families and environment (like at the Nativity)


— He comes via prophecy (like at the Presentation)


— He comes in the church (like at the Finding in the Temple)


There are so many ways God comes to us. But we have to be watching for Him.


If we just focus on the darkness — the fear, the burden, the want, the heartache, the loss — we might miss the Light of the World who comes with joy to brighten our circumstance and temper our sadness.


Morning will come, friends. And the sun will rise on whatever darkness we find ourselves in right now. But it’s important to remember the Good Lord is beautifully and magically present in the nighttime too.


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