In presenting the new “Luminous” Mysteries of the Rosary in 2002 Pope John Paul completes the Rosary as a contemplation of the earthly life of Christ. Until then there was a gap from the conclusion of the Joyful Mysteries (with the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple) until the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries (The Agony in the Garden).
In his 2002 letter John Paul reflected:
Moving on from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way “mysteries of light”. Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom.
It is appropriate therefore that the first of these Mysteries of Light is the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.
While the sign of the sacrament is clearer in one who has first lived without Christ coming to conversion and the Sacrament of Baptism as an adult, I like that my baptism happened as a ten day old baby, well before I was conscious. It reminds me that even before I was conceived God had me in mind, and when I was a completely helpless baby Jesus was working in me and I belonged to him. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jer 1:5)
It’s a reminder too that those who loved me in my earliest weeks wanted the best for me, and knew that I did not belong to them but was now possessed by God.
Pope Francis speaking a couple of years ago last year at a Wednesday Audience. He said:
“Many of us have no memory of the celebration of this Sacrament, and it is obvious why, if we were baptised soon after birth. I have asked this question two or three times already, here, in this [St. Peter’s] square: who among you knows the date of your Baptism, raise your hands. It is important to know the day on which I was immersed in that current of Jesus’ salvation. And I will allow myself to give you some advice… but, more than advice, a task for today. Today, at home, go look, ask about the date of your Baptism and that way you will keep in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism. To know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day. The danger of not knowing is that we can lose awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. Thus, we end up considering it only as an event that took place in the past – and not by our own will but by that of our parents – and that it has no impact on the present. We must reawaken the memory of our Baptism. We are called to live out our Baptism every day as the present reality of our lives”
I also remember that baptism is by definition a death, since we are in this sacrament grafted to Christ and become one body with him. This grafting is our only safety in life, since by being baptised into his life, suffering and death, we are carried in his body through these unavoidable painful earthly realities to the fulness of life, not only eternally, but here in the present.
You might find Bishop Robert Barron a helpful guide to praying these Luminous Mysteries at this link.
Today the Church celebrates the Feast day of St. Pope John XXIII, the pope (1958-1963) prayed at the end of the day “well God, it’s your Church, I’m off to bed!”
He is best known for calling the Second Vatican Council. In 1962 he opened the First Session of the Council with these inspiring words:
“In the daily exercise of our pastoral office, we sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin. They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse, and they behave as though they had learned nothing from history, which is, none the less, the teacher of life. They behave as though at the time of former Councils everything was a full triumph for the Christian idea and life and for proper religious liberty.
“We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.
“In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations…”