Pope Saint John Paul II proposed the Luminous Mysteries in an Apostolic Letter on the Rosary. In that letter he refers to a 1978 quote in which he said, “The rosary is my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and in its depth.” He wrote that his purpose was “to broaden “the Christological depth of the rosary… to include the mysteries of Christ’s public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion.” He went on to say “…It is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light.”
With this in mind, I offer the following suggestions for meditating on the Luminous Mysteries.
The Baptism of Jesus
- Had Jesus and his cousin John likely been friends since childhood?
- Did John realize that it was for Jesus that he was preparing the way?
- Did John know that Jesus was the Messiah?
- Imagine the scene at the banks of the River Jordan.
- Perhaps people were forming a line to be baptized.
- There is Jesus in line with everyone else. Imagine John looking up and making eye contact with Jesus in line.
- John: “I should be baptized by you, yet you come to me!” Mt 3: 14
- John gives in and baptizes Jesus. The sky opens and the Spirit of God descend like a dove and hovers over him.
- A voice from the heavens says, “This is my beloved Son. My favor rests on him.” Mt 3:17
- John: “He must increase while I must decrease.” John 3:30
The Wedding Feast at Cana
- Imagine Jesus walking with his mother to the wedding. Are they smiling, anticipating an enjoyable time? Is Jesus holding Mary’s arm?
- Jesus’ disciples had also been invited.
- Did Mary overhear the waiters talking about the wine having run out?
- Imagine the distress of the waiters. Mary, in her compassion, takes pity on them.
- Does Mary know at that point that Jesus is able to turn water into wine? Had he perhaps done it before at their home?
- Perhaps she asks the waiters to come with her to Jesus’ side.
- “They have no more wine, “ Mary says. Imagine the tenderness in her eyes as she looks at her extraordinary Son. She does not ask for anything. He knows what she is asking.
- Jesus answers, “Woman, how does this concern of yours involve me? My hour has not come.” (Jn 2:4) Perhaps he is smiling at her and she back at him. They both know he cannot refuse her.
- “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5) Mary gives the advice that 2000 years later we all still try to follow. Perhaps she does not know how Jesus will do it. She only knows they must follow his instructions.
- When the waiters realize what has happened, imagine the look on their faces. Perhaps Jesus is talking to his friends, maybe laughing. And they stare over at him with awe, no doubt wondering who is this man. As Mary tastes the new wine perhaps she looks over at Jesus, and he looks at her and smiles. He always does what she asks and they both know it.
The Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Conversion
- Imagine being in the crowd listening to Jesus preach.
- Did the people rush to join the crowd when they knew Jesus was sitting down to preach? Did they follow him from town to town? Surely some did.
- Did the people listen with a sense of wonder and awe? Were they very quiet as they recognized the truth of his words?
- Did they experience a feeling similar (identical?) to the feeling we have when in the presence of the Exposed Blessed Sacrament?
- “Everyone who practices evil hates the light; he does not come near it for fear his deeds will be exposed. But he who acts in truth comes into the light, to make clear that his deeds are done in God.” (Jn 3:20-21)
- “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never be thirsty; no, the water I give shall become a fountain within him leaping up to provide eternal life.” (Jn 4: 14)
- “If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8: 31-32)
- “I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die.” (Jn 11: 25-26)
- Did the people talk among themselves about what might be the meaning of Jesus’ words?
- Did they recognize the truth in their hearts without really being able to explain it in words? Did they experience an inexplicable joy?
- Jesus took Peter, James, and John, up a high mountain. Did they wonder where they were going? Perhaps they were going to pray?
- “He was transfigured before their eyes. His face became as dazzling as the sun, his clothes as radiant as light.” (Mt 17: 2)
- What did that look like?? Clearly, it was a kind of supernatural light! John Paul II describes it in his Apostolic Letter, “The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ…”
- “Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them conversing with him.” (Mt 17: 3)
- What were they talking about?? Was Jesus explaining the Redemption? Were they talking about how events would unfold?
- How did Peter, James, and John know that these men were Moses and Elijah? Was it a Word of Knowledge?
- Peter says, “Lord, how good that we are here! With your permission I will erect three booths here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Mt 17: 4)
- You have to love Peter. Here he demonstrates his willingness to lead. He immediately thinks about what needs to be done.
- “He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them. Out of the cloud came a voice which said, ‘This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests. Listen to him.’”(Jn17: 5)
- At this, the disciples fell forward on the ground with fear. Jesus came forward and laid his hands on them saying, “Do not be afraid.” (Jn 17: 7) Jesus is always telling us to not be afraid. His beloved apostles were probably, at the sound of these words, flooded with peace and yet still filled with awe and amazement at what they had just witnessed.
The Institution of the Eucharist
- After Jesus says that one of the apostles will betray him they each ask if they are the one. Such humility they have now. None of them thought, well, I know it’s not me. Each knew they were capable of falling.
- “Take this and eat it,” he said, “This is my body.” (Mt 26: 26)
- Did the apostles wonder what this meant? Did they recall Jesus’ words about the bread of life?
- Did they have a sense of the significance of what was happening?
- Did they look at each other questioningly?
- Did they feel the presence of Jesus as they received their First Communion?
- “All of you must drink from it,” he said, “for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:28)
- Did the apostles, at this point, start to have a sense of what the redemption might mean?
- Then they sang “songs of praise” before walking out to the Mount of Olives. Were the apostles filled with joy at what had just happened?
- It was at the Last Supper that the priesthood was initiated. The apostles had just been ordained priests. Did they have a sense of the significance of the anointing they had just received?
Pope St. John Paul II said of the Luminous Mysteries in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary, “This addition of these new mysteries, without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer’s traditional format, is meant to give it fresh life and to enkindle renewed interest in the rosary’s place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy, and light of suffering and glory.” Amen.