Fr. Roger J. Landry
Espirito Santo Parish, Fall River, MA
30th Sunday of Ordinary Time
October 27, 2002
Exod 22:20-26; Thess1:5-10; Mt 22:34-40
1) In responding to the question of the lawyer in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the most important thing we need to do in our lives. The absolutely most important. If we do everything else but don’t do this, we will not have lived life well, we will not have succeeded in investing the great gift of life. The first and greatest commandment of all, as Jesus says, is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.” Love God with all your heart, soul and mind. Do we? Are we trying to do this? How much of our heart do we normally give to God? How often are our minds, our thoughts, dedicated to him? What’s the state of our soul right now? Is it madly, burning in love with God, or far short of that? If we really love God, we’re going to want to spend time with him, just like we want to spend time with anyone we love. If we really love God, we’re going to want to please him, just as we desire to please those we love here on earth. If we really love God, we’re going to give our lives to him, just as we make all types of sacrifices for those we love here on earth.
2) Today I would like to focus on ONE very concrete way to help us to grow in love of God, but something that will likewise require at least some of us to put in their heart, their efforts, their minds, to God. It’s a request given to us specifically by God’s supreme spokesman here on earth, the vicar of Jesus Christ, the successor of St. Peter. About two weeks ago, when the Pope celebrated his 24th anniversary as our Holy Father, instead of receiving gifts, he gave us an incredible one, a new document on the Holy Rosary, and proclaimed the year starting from October 16 this year through October 16 next year, the Year of the Holy Rosary. He asked every single one of us to pray the Rosary every day, for peace in the world, for peace and the Christian growth of our families, to grow more similar to the Blessed Mother in faith and love of God and to become much more intimiately in love with Jesus, whom we contemplate in the mysteries of the Rosary. The Pope also gave another set of five mysteries to meditate on the life of Jesus. He specifically asked priests to make this news known to the faithful, as a way in which they can grow in love of the Lord with their minds, with their hearts, with their souls. Last weekend I gave the highlights of the document to those at the Portuguese Masses. This week, I do so to those in English. To those who heard me last week in Portuguese, perhaps this week you’ll understand me!
3) The first and most notable item in the document was the creation of five new mysteries, the mysteries of light. For the past several centuries, the Christian faithful have meditated on 15 mysteries of the life of Our Lord and Our Lady, five joyful, five sorrowful, five glorious mysteries. In this document released on October 16, the Pope gave us the five mysteries of light, which focus on the period of time between the Lord’s being found in the temple and the Lord’s agony of the Garden. In other words, these are five mysteries concerning the public life of the Lord, in which the Lord revealed himself as the light of the world. The Pope asked us to meditate in particular on the following five mysteries:
b) Self-manifestation at the wedding in Cana
c) his proclamation of the kingdom of God and call to conversion
d) his transfiguration
e) the institution of the Eucharist
4) The Pope described what our meditation on these mysteries should do for us: Each of them, he says, is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus.
a) The Baptism in the Jordan is first of all a mystery of light. Here, as Christ descends into the waters, the innocent one who became “sin” for our sake, the heavens open wide and the voice of the Father declares him the beloved Son, while the Spirit descends on him to invest him with the mission which he is to carry out.
b) Another mystery of light is the first of the signs, given at Cana, when Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers. Marriage. Doing whatever Christ tells us. Mary brings our needs to Christ.
c) Another mystery of light is the preaching by which Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust: the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which he continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church.
d) The mystery of light par excellence is the Transfiguration, traditionally believed to have taken place on Mount Tabor. The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ as the Father commands the astonished Apostles to “listen to him” and to prepare to experience with him the agony of the Passion, so as to come with him to the joy of the Resurrection and a life transfigured by the Holy Spirit.
e) A final mystery of light is the institution of the Eucharist, in which Christ offers his body and blood as food under the signs of bread and wine, and testifies “to the end” his love for humanity, for whose salvation he will offer himself in sacrifice.
5) When do we pray the luminous mysteries? That’s what everyone’s asking. The Pope suggested that we meditate upon them in a particular way on Thursdays. In the past we have prayed the joyful mysteries on Thursdays, but the Pope suggests that, because of the particular concentration on Mary in the joyful mysteries, that we pray these on Saturday. Therefore, we would be praying the joyful mysteries on Monday and Saturday, the sorrowful mysteries as normal on Tuesday and Friday, the Glorious mysteries on Sunday and Wednesday and the Mysteries of Light on Thursday. In the entrance of the Church, I’ve made a sheet that puts into writing these various indications for you to take home.
6) The Pope also talks about a particular way and spirituality of praying the Rosary well. It’s not just a repetition of words. That’s the way some of us have experienced the Rosary and why some people don’t think they get anything out of it. But it’s not because the Rosary itself can’t help us, but because we weren’t praying well. The most important thing in praying the Rosary is the contemplation of Christ through the eyes of the Blessed Mother in each of the mysteries. The Pope makes a few suggestions so that we will pray the Rosary in a more contemplative way:
a) With the beads, to notice that we begin and end the Rosary with the Crucifix, with this sign of Jesus’ love. The Rosary is meant to start with Christ and to bring us back to Christ. They are like a chain linking us to God with Mary. He also asks us as we pray the Rosary to see them as a chain linking us to others. We might even be able to pray for someone in particular on each of the beads.
b) In starting the Rosary, we normally do so with the Creed, to make our profession of faith the basis of our contemplative journey.
c) Then we pray the Our Father, Jesus always leads us to the Father, so that we can say with him, “Abba!, Father!” Everything we do is meant to lead us to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit, including the Rosary. When we pray the Our Father during the Rosary, we consecrate ourselves to the Father as Jesus taught us, to do his will and to praise his name.
d) Then we pray the three hail Mary’s. In the hail Mary, we use the wonderful words of the Archangel Gabriel, Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” and unite ourselves to heaven’s amazement at the greatest miracle of history, for which all generations will call Mary Blessed, the incarnation of the Son within her. We then say the words of her cousin Elizabeth, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” The whole prayer focuses on the name of Jesus, that blessed fruit. This makes Jesus the focus of the Hail Mary, as Jesus was always the focus of Mary’s life. Because of Mary’s association with Jesus, we have the confidence to entrust to her our life and the moment of our death in the second part of the Hail Mary, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
e) Then we have the Glory Be, which the Pope says shows that everything we do is meant to be directed to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to whom all glory is due. The Pope suggests that we sing the Glory Be, to emphasize its importance. That is the reason why priests almost always sing, even in a Mass in which there is no music or other singing, the “Through Him, with him, in him,” to show that the whole Mass is directed to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. By singing the Glory Be in the Rosary, we would be putting on it the same emphasis.
f) Then, in the actual praying of the decades, the Pope says we should start by announcing the mystery. The first mystery of light, the Baptism of the Lord. He suggests that we use an image or our imagination to focus our attention on the scene.
g) Then he wants us to listen to the Word of God, to read a short passage from the Bible about the scene, so that we open ourselves to what God wants to say to us during the mystery, and to nourish our meditation. When praying the Rosary in larger settings, there can even be a brief commentary.
h) Then the Pope says it’s very important before we start to recite the Our Father and the Hail Mary’s, to pause in silence, to reflect on the mystery, to make sure we’re not in a rush. Mary always treasured things in her heart. The Pope wants us, in the school of Mary which is the Rosary, to become more silently contemplative as well.
i) While we pray the Our Father and the Ten Hail Mysteries, our focus should be on Christ through Mary’s eyes, with the prayers serving as background praise, like the waves of the ocean, going peacefully back and forth.
j) After praying the mystery, after the Glory Be, preferably sung, the Pope really wants us to focus on applying the fruit of a particular mystery to our own life, before we pray any other prayer. For example, after praying the fourth sorrowful mystery, Jesus carries his Cross, one application of the fruit, would be “Jesus, please help me to help Joao carry his Cross like Simon helped you carry yours,” etc. Then we can add our other prayers, the Fatima prayer, etc.
k) At the end of the Rosary, the Pope specifically asks us to pray for the Pope’s intentions, which will make our prayer of the Rosary a prayer in union with the whole Church.
7) I can’t go through the whole, beautiful document today, but the last thing I’ll mention is how praying the Rosary is also a means by which we can also keep the second greatest commandment, love of others. The Pope says that the Rosary is particularly needed for two of the major crises facing the world and the Church today, and facing all of us. The cause of peace in the world. And also the family.
8 ) First, a prayer for peace. The pope makes note of all the challenges facing the world, for example against Terrorism, and implores us to pray the Rosary. He lists several times in the history of the Church in which the prayer of the Rosary has saved Christians and even Christianity. But he also says that the Rosary makes us peacemakers when prayed well. First, the meditative character gives us a sense of peace. But it also produces fruits of charity, leading to the contemplation of the face of Christ, particularly in others, especially the afflicted:
• Contemplation of child in Bethlehem gives us great desire to welcome, defend and promote life and help children who suffer.
• Contemplation of Christ the Revealer in mysteries of light leads to resolve to live beatitudes.
• Contemplation of Christ’s carrying the Cross helps us to be Simon of Cyrene for our brothers and sisters.
• Contemplation of glory of Christ and of Mary in heaven makes us yearn to make this world more conformed to God’s plan.
• In a word, by focusing our eyes on Christ, the Rosary also makes us peacemakers in the world.
9) The pope also said the Rosary is a prayer of peace in the family, that it brings the family closer together. The family that prays together stays together. The family that doesn’t pray together, in other words, grows more divided. Statistics prove this all the time in divorce rates. It’s urgent that families pray together and the prayer par excellence for a Catholic family is the Rosary. If the members of the family come together to focus on Jesus every day through the Rosary, they will look at others in the eye and communicate, love, forgive and support each other. Many of the problems facing the family, the Pope notes, come from bad communication and the lack of a center on God in the home. The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of Nazareth, placing Jesus at the center, sharing his joys and sorrows, placing their needs in his hands, drawing from him hope and strength to move on.
10) The Pope says that we should pray the Rosary with and for our children. Praying the Rosary with them trains them for a life of prayer, helps them to put God first in their lives and have a confidence in the power of prayer and in God’s presence when future problems arise. Many parents, the Pope notes, say their children don’t like to pray the Rosary, but the Pope says that’s probably because they’re not praying it well, seeing the meaning of the mysteries. He encourages parents to help the children enter into the spirit of the mysteries, so that they can see that prayer is the most important thing we can do. I always like to say as well that praying the family Rosary at home is the best preparation for helping your children appreciate the Mass and behave while at Mass. If the children get used to praying at home, that they need to be still and focus on the Lord, then it is much easier for them here, to behave and focus on what Jesus is saying to them during the Mass.
11) This year which just began on October 16 is the Year of the Holy Rosary. The Pope is calling on every parishioner of Espirito Santo, young, old, healthy, sick, male, female, Portuguese, English, to pray the Rosary each day, to contemplate Christ through the eyes and with the help of the Blessed Mother. That includes you. This is a very concrete way we’ll be able to show God, show ourselves and show others that we really do love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. It’s a way to grow in this love. It’s also a very concrete way to grow in love of others, as we start to see Christ more in them and love Christ more in them. As we prepare here for the 100th anniversary of our parish, we dedicate our preparations to the Blessed Mother through the Rosary, that we might indeed experience a tremendous spiritual rebirth, individually and as a parish family, so that we might, after contemplating the Lord Jesus here on earth through the Holy Rosary, receiving him at Mass and loving him with all we’ve got, we might be able to contemplate him, love him, and remain with him forever in heaven.