Reflection for Friday, 7 October 2011 (27th Week of Ordinary Time, Year I)
Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary
At the end of St. Luke’s account of the Annunciation, we find the words: “And the angel left her.” There seems to be certain finality in those words. They seem to suggest that, apart from this one special occasion, Our Lady’s experience of faith was very similar to our own. She was not constantly receiving visits from angels and special revelations to explain everything. As far as the Gospels tell us, she was visited only once. These days we tend to think of Mary from a distantly retrospective point of view. We know how her story goes and we know how it ends. We know it all so well that perhaps sometimes we forget how astonishing and challenging it must have been for her when it was actually happening. But she had to live through it one day at a time, and she had to live through it in basically the same way we have to live through our lives. She had faith—indeed perfect human faith. She had the closeness to God that comes through frequent prayer and through deep love. But she did not always have understanding. Luke’s Gospel suggests that much of what happened after Jesus’ birth surprised her. She was taken aback at Simeon’s and Anna’s revelations when Jesus was presented at the Temple. She was frightened and upset by the boy Jesus’ disappearance for three days and the discovery that he had been in the Temple the whole time. Certainly, she had no special insight that could have adequately prepared her for Jesus’ passion and death. She must have experienced these as a very great and excruciating test of faith.
But Luke’s Gospel also says that: “She pondered these mysteries in her heart.” She meditated and prayed over them. And that’s what the Rosary is really all about. Our Lady gave us the gift of the Rosary—and the Church affirms that it is a very great and powerful gift—so that we can share in her prayerful pondering. And, as this pondering helped her to grow in understanding, if we really do delve prayerfully into the mysteries of the Rosary, it can help us to better understand God, to better understand the mysteries of the divine love that saves us, and to grow in virtue. It can also help us to find the meaning in our own lives, and to understand how God is active in the midst of our disappointments and struggles as well as our successes and our joys. Basically, if we really pray the Rosary and pray it faithfully, it can deepen our faith and bring us closer to God. So, surely it’s worth the effort.
Having said that, I have to be honest and admit that I don’t pray the Rosary regularly myself. I’m not proud of that. But I suppose a lot of people these days find the Rosary difficult and inaccessible for various reasons. At least, I can console myself with the thought that I still spend a fair bit of time pondering the same mysteries through praying in different ways. But a lot of people these days can’t seem to invest any time in any prayer. We can safely assume, I think, that most of those who can’t or won’t find time to come to Mass aren’t doing much prayerful pondering of the sacred mysteries either—through the Rosary or in any other way. And that has huge implications for their life of faith. When people come asking for Baptism for their children, I’m always stressing to them the importance of quality time in any relationship, and the relationship with God is no exception. If we don’t really make the effort to spend any time with God, getting to know him, to understand him and to love him more deeply, what kind of relationship do we have with him? Can we even say that we have a relationship at all? I wonder.
On this feast, we should all spend some reflecting on what we’re doing in our lives to ponder God’s mysteries and to grow closer to him. We should pray for Mary’s intercession to help us with this. And, if we’re not already doing so, perhaps we should give serious consideration to taking advantage of the gift of the Rosary. That’s what it’s there for.