Light and Life – March-April 2020, Vol 73, No 2 – A Publication of the Western Dominican Province
In the Third Luminous Mystery—The Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom of God and the Call to Conversion—Jesus proclaims, “The kingdom of God is at hand—repent, and believe in the Gospel!” (Mark 1:15)
The joy, astonishment and jubilation upon hearing, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” cannot be overstated. Ever since the Fall, the people of God waited thousands of years for the Messiah to come. We were cut off from heaven due to our own sin. Knowing that we could not reconcile with God on our own, we waited for God to bridge the chasm that stood between us. Then, one day the carpenter’s son stands up in the synagogue at Nazareth and proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19) Then, after rolling up the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2), Jesus of Nazareth hands it back to the attendant and announces, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
What follows these words of Jesus is astonishment by some and fury by others. Some fall down at his feet while others want to stone him. Whether you are of one group or the other, or are somewhere in between, you know what these words mean. Only the Messiah could announce that these words are fulfilled. Thus, in doing so, Jesus presents himself as such. The ramifications are immense: this means that the wait is over! The prophecies and hopes of the entire Old Testament scriptures point to this day. Now, in his person, Jesus says that the kingdom of God is at hand.
Our Lord proclaims the coming of the kingdom at various times in his years of public ministry; it wasn’t a one-time event. However, when we pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, we can recall any one of these events of his proclamation for our contemplation, for example, in the event that I have mentioned above, in the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6: 20-26), or in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12). Jesus’ discourse in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is extensive and contains some of the most well-known teachings given to us by the Lord.
In one instance, the Pharisees ask Jesus when the kingdom of God will come. He says in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:21) When Jesus speaks these words, he is referring to himself. As the King of heaven, Jesus is now present to all who would embrace him in faith. What they failed to see was that the kingdom of God was only fingertips away. To become a disciple of Jesus is to open oneself to the kingdom and the eternal life that follows. As Our Lord says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) In another passage, he says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be safe. He will go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) Thus he proclaims that in his very person he is the way to heaven. Pope St. John Paul II mirrors this wisdom of the scriptures; for in the Luminous Mysteries he teaches that in the very person of Jesus Christ the revelation of the kingdom is made present.1
The stunning reality of the Lord’s proclamation that the kingdom of God is at hand can be seen in the reactions of those who heard his words and witnessed his miracles in various places throughout Judea and the surrounding regions. In one such example, when a possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus (Matthew 12: 22-28), there was again a mixed crowd present to witness it. Like the incident in the synagogue when Jesus first announced his arrival, there were those who were astonished by him and others who were furious at him. Jesus expels the demon and cures the man; however, his words reveal what is truly going on, for he says, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I expel demons, then the reign of God has overtaken you.” (Matthew 22:28) What this means is that the reign of God is present in himself. Jesus is not just a rabbi, or a “holy man,” or a prophet, or a saint, he is the Son of the Living God who was present with the Father and the Holy Spirit at the beginning of time. Now, at his coming, the kingdom of God is brought to earth. And with his death three years later, the pathway to heaven will be opened for those who accept him in faith.
However, there is something further to be considered in the Third Luminous Mystery that is essential. Not only is the Lord announcing that the kingdom of God is at hand, in the same breath he says, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel!” Therefore, acknowledging that the kingdom of God is at hand and that Jesus is the Messiah is one thing, but then we need to embrace him by committing to a life of faith. This means that every Christian who professes faith in Jesus Christ must be open to ongoing conversion. As a result, we must strive continuously for a right relationship with God. Remember what the Lord said, “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:28)
It’s about entering into the mystery of the life of Christ. What is so critical in meditating upon the mysteries of the Rosary, is that as I meditate on the mysteries of the lives of Jesus and his Mother, I reflect upon my own life and discern how much of my life reflects that of Christ. In doing this, I need to discern whether or not I am striving for and living the virtuous life. Or, have I given myself permission to live a compromised way of life that does not reflect the Gospel?
During Lent, it is apropos to contemplate the Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom of God and the Call to Conversion. Lent is the season for conversion. As we begin our Lenten journey, sometimes we are not oriented as we ought to be; for example, we start giving up our favorite foods and don’t ask ourselves why we are doing this. Too often, giving up food develops into a preoccupation with weight loss. What about having our sights set on Easter Sunday with the mindset of growing in holiness over the next 40 days? Lent is about assessing our relationship with Christ and discerning where we are called to conversion. Make no mistake—each of us is in need of conversion. Even with the great saints, the Lord was constantly at work in them to bring them closer to him. So, the Third Luminous Mystery is an active call to strip away those things that lead us away from God.
For some, this may mean working on small character defects that we need to allow the Lord to refine; however, it strikes me that many of us have more serious areas of concern where we need to be truly reconciled with the Lord, e.g., because of deep wounds, marital strife, mortal sin, or addictions such as alcohol, pornography or food. It’s important to remember though, that Jesus comes from a place of love. When he proclaims, “The kingdom of God is at hand—repent, and believe in the Gospel,” he looks into our hearts and loves us, and invites us to love him in return.
What’s amazing about this particular mystery of the Rosary is that God himself became incarnate in Jesus Christ; he walked the face of this earth, personally inviting every person he encountered to embrace his life of grace! It doesn’t get any better than a personal invitation by the Son of God himself.
Finally, Pope John Paul II gives us the perspective of the Blessed Virgin Mary2 as we contemplate the Third Luminous Mystery:
Christ is the supreme Teacher, the revealer and the one revealed . . . In this regard could we have any better teacher than Mary? From the divine standpoint, the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of Christ. But among creatures no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of his mystery better than his Mother.
[As Mary took an active role at the wedding at Cana], we can imagine that she would have done likewise for the disciples after Jesus’ Ascension, when she joined them in awaiting the Holy Spirit and supported them in their first mission. Contemplating the scenes of the Rosary in union with Mary is a means of learning from her to “read” Christ, to discover his secrets and to understand his message.
This school of Mary is all the more effective if we consider that she teaches by obtaining for us in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as she offers us the incomparable example of her own pilgrimage of faith. As we contemplate each mystery of her Son’s life, she invites us to do as she did at the Annunciation: to ask humbly the questions which open us to the light, in order to end with the obedience of faith: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
1. Pope Saint John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, #21.
2. Ibid., #14.
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The Decalogue Decoded: Because the Ten Commandments seem harsh and unyielding to modern ears, few today realize that they are a divine gift which embodies the most perfect expression of human freedom. To unleash their profound spiritual power in your daily life, Fr. Brian Mullady has written this remarkable book that sheds light on the often-overlooked, soul-nourishing elements and implications of each of the Commandments. Within these pages you’ll discover how they distill Christ’s teachings in the Beatitudes to reveal an entire plan of life that brings you enduring peace with others and with yourself. Soft cover, 128 pages, $14.95
My First Communion Prayer Book: This hardbound book contains a collection of new and traditional Catholic prayers, and will help children make prayer a daily part of their lives. From the moment they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night they can turn to Jesus with a special prayer. Each page is beautifully illustrated with scenes from the Bible that will captivate every child. An entire section is dedicated to the prayers of the Mass, so children can take this book with them to church on Sundays. Also includes a beautifully illustrated section on the Rosary. 78 pages, $16.95
These and many other excellent resources are available online at store.rosary-center.org.
Update on the Rosary Center
Dear faithful supporters of the Rosary Center & Confraternity, the Rosary Center is a 95-year-old building that will finally get a make-over! She is indispensable to our apostolate of the Rosary Confraternity. In order to continue our vibrant ministry and to ensure that it flourishes into the future, we need to make the requisite renovations. In other words, it’s time to shore up the old girl! In these days, I have been meeting with architects to finalize designs for our restorations. When all is said and done, we hope to have a destination chapel in which YOU can come to adore the Lord and pray the Rosary with us in person. If you seek to help us with our dreams, please call me, write me or email me at the Rosary Center. May Our Lady’s work continue!
Fr. Joseph Sergott OP
Director of the Rosary Center & Promoter of the Rosary Confraternity.