The Holy Family Did It Best: Joy in Times of Uncertainty
As we deal with a constant influx of devastating news about the coronavirus pandemic, now more than ever we are in need of vibrant, authentic joy. In pursuit of that, I’ve been thinking about the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. I was reflecting on our Mother Mary’s situation and her response in each of these instances. I was struck by something that was present in each mystery: the state of uncertainty that prefigures joy.
Think about the Annunciation. When the angel Gabriel appears and greets her, “she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29). From that encounter came Mary’s perfect “yes” to God’s call for her life--to be the mother of our Lord. She accepted the uncertainty that came with bearing a child in the most unheard of circumstances. Out of that uncertainty sprung the greatest gift the world will ever see: Jesus. And where there is Jesus, there is joy.
Then comes the Visitation; Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth who holds the life of John the Baptist in her womb. I can imagine how many uncertainties came with this event. How long will Mary stay with Elizabeth? How will her own pregnancy affect her during this stay? Elizabeth praises Mary’s trust in God--the fuel for accepting the uncertainty about what lies ahead in their lives. She exclaims, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). Mary believed. Mary had faith in the God who she knew fully and deeply loved her. Even though she could not see the baby in her womb and could not see the God who blessed her, she trusted in His word. This encounter with Elizabeth leads Mary to sing the praises to the Lord, known as The Magnificat. Though I’d guess she and Elizabeth had questions left unanswered, Mary still rejoiced.
As Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem before the Nativity, the Gospel shows us that they--like any parents--had questions and concerns about how, where, and when Jesus was to be born. They needed a place for Mary to give birth. They tried to stay at an inn but there was no room. Where were they to go? I can imagine the worries that must have been weighing on St. Joseph’s heart as he struggled to provide an adequate place for his wife to give birth to Jesus. I can picture Mary’s beautiful, instinctual, motherly concern as she just wants the very best for her son. At last, they arrive at a stable. Settling down after so much travel and confusion, Mary gives Joy Incarnate to the world.
In the Fourth Joyful Mystery, Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus to the Temple to be presented according to the law of Moses. Encountering a righteous and devout man named Simeon, “the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:33-35). I wonder what was going through the minds of Mary and Joseph as they heard this. What will the life of their son bring to this world? What is this sword that Simeon speaks of? But Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus’ parents were both amazed and blessed. They accepted God’s plan for them with their whole hearts even when they could not predict everything that was to come. They rejoiced in the gift of their son and they invite us now and always to do the same.
In the Fifth mystery, as Mary and Joseph are traveling home from Jerusalem, they realize that Jesus is not with them. “Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:44-47). Three days...three days without knowing where the Son of God is, three days of total uncertainty and worry. But I believe that Mary and Joseph maintained a joyful and hopeful spirit throughout that trial, knowing that their Heavenly Father loved them and would take care of them. And He did. Just imagine the overwhelming peace that must have poured into their hearts when they laid their eyes on Jesus in the Temple. Nothing could compare to that moment. Look at what they found Jesus doing: listening, asking questions, understanding, and answering. He was bringing certainty to the minds and hearts of people in the Temple. What greater joy do we have than the certainty of knowing that Jesus is truly alive and present today in our lives, will never go missing, and is always found right where He was in this passage: in His Father’s house.
Jesus rests in every tabernacle in the world each and every day. He is there waiting for us, blessing us, and rejoicing in the Father’s love with us. Though many of us cannot visit nor receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in these times, we can take comfort in the certainty of His presence in the Eucharist and in our lives. Though our world is full of uncertainty, fear, and worry, Jesus does not leave us to journey through it alone. He has the answers, and more importantly, He has the peace and joy that we so desperately desire and need. He is “Joy to the World” and He wants us to have that same joy by giving Himself to each of us in a deep and personal way. I pray we can learn how to accept the state of uncertainty that we are in. May we model ourselves after Mary and Joseph by allowing Jesus’ presence to transform our uncertainty into all-encompassing joy.
O Blessed Mother, Mother of Good Counsel, Queen of Peace, Cause of our Joy, pray for us!
St. Joseph, Comfort of the Afflicted, Hope of the Sick, Patron of the Dying, pray for us!
Did you know that each day of the week, we as Catholics are invited to pray a certain set of mysteries of the Rosary? On Saturdays and Mondays, Catholics all over the world pray the Joyful Mysteries.
Set aside a few minutes today to pray the Joyful Mysteries and meditate on the joy of the Gospel--a joy that draws light out of darkness, peace out of turmoil, and clarity out of uncertainty.
Wondering how to pray the Rosary? Check out this guide from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Abby Kelly is a junior concentrating in English and sent us this post from Shelton, CT.