Donald Rumsfeld, the former United States Secretary of Defence, once said: “As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
None of us, it seems, have all the answers – not even Donald Rumsfeld. But for all the unknowns and uncertainties in life, we can also be assured of, through God’s goodness, the certitudes of joy. Sometimes the two feelings go hand in hand. Uncertainties can raise questions, even when we experience joy in our heart. The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary illustrate this truth. Each occasion of joy, each bead, is threaded and tied with a question of uncertainty.
In the mystery of the Annunciation, the news that she is to be the Mother of God prompts Mary to ask with uncertainty: “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?”
Her cousin Elizabeth, overjoyed and excited by Mary’s visitation also raises a question: “Why should I be so honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?”
And surely there is uncertainty for Mary and Joseph as they make their way to Bethlehem to register for the census, aware that the birth of Jesus is imminent. No hospitals in those days, not even room in a warm guest-house.
Then the time arrives for Joseph and Mary to fulfil the law and present Jesus in the Temple – a joyful occasion, notably for Simeon who has waited so long to set eyes on the the Saviour of the world. But for Mary and Joseph, they can only stand and wonder at the things Simeon is saying about Jesus, especially when he speaks to Mary of a sword that will pierce her heart.
Life’s unknowns for Mary and Joseph manifest again in the final joyful mystery when Jesus goes missing. It’s a joy to discover that he is safe in the Temple. But this joy is mixed with uncertainty when Mary asks her Son, “My child, why have you done this to us?” And even when Jesus explains, his parents fail to understand his answer. The question of uncertainty remains.
Each joyful mystery is a journey, each bead a stop on the journey, a station, an incident – an episode in our life. And we know there is a degree of uncertainty with any journey we undertake.
The journey for Mary begins with the arrival of the Angel Gabriel. Pregnant, she sets out on a long journey from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea, some 70 miles away. Three months later Mary returns to Nazareth. Almost six months pass before Joseph and Mary are on the move again, this time to Bethlehem. From Bethlehem it’s just a short passage to Jerusalem for the Presentation; and then follows the long journey into Egypt before the Holy Family eventually move back to Nazareth.
St Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph would journey to Jerusalem every year for the Passover. On one occasion on their way back to Nazareth, they discover that Jesus is missing from the caravan. And so yet another journey, another step of uncertainty, is undertaken to search for the twelve-year-old.
The journeys for Jesus and Mary continue with the mysteries of Light, the Sorrowful mysteries, and the Glorious mysteries.
In her messages from Medjugorje, Our Lady often refers to the journey with Jesus as the path – of perfection, of peace, of love, of salvation, the path towards eternal life.
It is impossible to share in this journey and its joys and illuminations, its sorrows and glories, without confronting uncertainty and the unknown. There is no easy by-pass to Heaven, just the certainty and joy of faith, knowing that Jesus has prepared a place for each of us who desire to make that journey and follow him.
I desire that through you the whole world may get to know the God of joy. By your life bear witness for God’s joy. Do not be anxious or worried. God himself will help you and show you the way. part message, May 25, 1998