In recent years Pope John Paul II added, very profitably I think, the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary as a way of extending our meditation on the Gospel as the rosary is prayed.
Some one well termed the Rosary, “The Gospel on a string.” For the faithful who pray it regularly, there is indeed the specific recollection of most of the basic truths of the Gospel: from the infancy and childhood of Jesus (joyful mysteries), through his public ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom (Luminous mysteries), through his Passion and death (Sorrowful mysteries) to his Resurrection and the extending of his glory upward and outward (the Glorious mysteries).
And I wonder if we are finished as the Church in the assembling of the mysteries. I say this for two reasons.
First having four mysteries spread over a seven day week is a bit clumsy. Four into seven goes (as we used to say in the day of long division) is “1, remainder three”. Or as we say in the age of the calculator: 1.75. In other words, it’s not an even fit. I suppose it would be optimal to have seven sets of mysteries, one for each day. But even if we had five mysteries, one for each weekday, that would be a start. The weekend could then feature the Joyful and Glorious mysteries again.
A second reason it would be nice to have at least one more set of mysteries is that it helps fulfill even more the notion of the Rosary as the Gospel on a string. The more events we can commit to memory and pray over the fuller will this notion become.
Now surely I do not want to get ahead of the Church in a matter like this and would not recommend in any way that the People of God simply start making another round of mysteries up.
Yet still I wonder about a fifth set of mysteries. Has any thought been given to this? Since I have no idea where the luminous mysteries came from (did JP II make them of his own accord, or did others introduce him to the concept – I have not read anywhere of their origin).
But if, per chance, other mysteries where to be introduced, what would they be? Personally I like to mediate a lot on the healing power of the Lord. So many come to me, and come to the Church seeking healing. And healing was at the heart of Christ’s ministry. Furthermore, the many physical cures worked by Christ also have spiritual dimensions and thus a double meaning. For example blindness is not simply a problem with the eyes, but our souls too can be blinded and in need of illumination).
WIth that in mind, if there were to be some new mysteries I would like to see “The Healing Mysteries.” And perhaps they would be these:
I. The First Healing Mystery, Jesus give sight to the Blind – There are several scriptures that could be used, but the best is probably the healing of the man born blind in John’s Gospel:
As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth….[And Jesus said to his disciples, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said this, he made some mud with his saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing (Jn 9:1-7 selected verses).
In this mystery we meditate not only on the healing from physical blindness but also the spiritual blindness of which so many of us suffer. Our minds are darkened and we cannot see God’s glory, or the meaning and purpose of our life. And how we struggle to understand and make sense of things.
The passage also links the recovery of our spiritual vision to baptism: the man went, washed, and came back able to see. It is no surprise that the Eastern Church refers to baptism as illumination.
By this first healing mystery we begin to see, our darkened minds are illumined and we move from darkness to light, from confusion and dark despair to clarity and bright hope.
II. The Second Healing Mystery – Jesus opens the ears of the deaf - Here the Scripture would be:
And they brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. Jesus took him aside, away from the crowd and put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (Mark 7:32-35).
And here too we do not simply think of physical deafness and muteness, but also of their spiritual counterparts.
For it happens that we are often deaf to the good news that God wants us to hear. Many things block our hearing. Perhaps it is hurts of the past, or lack of self worth, perhaps it is worldliness, stubbornness, prejudice, or ignorance. Perhaps it is the poor witness of parents or others who should have proclaimed the Word to us, but did not.
What ever it is Jesus can heal and remove the things that block us from hearing that we are loved and that a saving and transforming grace can change our life.
And, having our hearing improved, we can begin to speak properly. Touching our tongue, Jesus puts his words in our mouth and gives us courage to speak, speak a word that helps others and also helps us.
III. The Third Healing Mystery – Jesus heals the lame and paralyzed - Here too there are several passages that come to mind. But John’s version is richest:
Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (Jn 5:1-11)
Here too we think not only of physical paralysis, but also of spiritual lameness. For many of us, on account of our sin and weakness, have trouble walking uprightly. And we lack strength for the journey to the promised land.
Perhaps too we are paralyzed by fear or weighed down with sorrow. It may also be that we are too encumbered by worldly things, and the Lord needs to help us let go of unnecessary things, baggage, or addictions.
By the Lord’s healing power we can be freed and strengthened to walk again and the path before us to the promised land can be reopened.
IV. The Fourth Healing Mystery – Jesus heals of Leprosy -
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:12-13).
Leprosy is a disease that disfigures us and leads to death. So is sin. And from all our sins which disfigure us and have often made us outcasts, the Lord grants a healing touch.
The Leper in this Gospel is humbled and desperate. He cannot overcome his condition. And very often we experience this with our sin, that we are powerless and incapable of simply overcoming it. Only Jesus can change this leper’s terrible state.
In addition, Lepers could not live in close relation with others, they had to live on the fringes of town. And so too does sin harm our human relationships and cause hurts and divisions that are often difficult to overcome.
In all our struggles, the healing touch of Jesus can restore, forgive and heal, not only the individual, but also broken relationships.
V. The Fifth Healing Mystery – Jesus Casts out demons.
They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned….When [the townsfolk] came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; (Luke 8:26-33)
We all have demons, and the man in this story had many. They had varying effects on him, he was naked (sexual issues?), and could not live in a house (no family, no roots, no commitments, no love), and he lived among the tombs (he had many death directed drives). Further no one could control him, no one prevail upon him. The demon caused him to brake free from every limit, and to reject community with others. He preferred solitary places.
What are your demons? Sensuality, greed, rebellion, fear, anger, lust, sloth, envy, addiction, gluttony, or one of hundreds, thousands, “legions” of others? We need Jesus to drive these demons out, one by one.
I am a witness, he can and does drive these sorts of demons away. He can give us peace and restore us to our right mind. I am a witness, are you?
OK, Five healing mysteries.
One weakness to my list is that it involves all men. Perhaps then, the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage can be substituted for the paralyzed man.
But you get the point. One more set of mysteries to round out the five weekdays. Are there other sets of mysteries you know of or might suggest?
Let us recall that we ought not get ahead of the Church or go in different directions without remembering the communal nature of the rosary. Nevertheless, it is worth discussing. For if the five luminous mysteries could be added, perhaps others as well. And the Gospel on a string grows just a bit more.
Let me know your ideas, If not these five, are there other sets of five? Remember, its all just for discussion.
Here is a song about healing grace: