Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow…” Today is Laetare Sunday. It is unique because the Church exalts us to rejoice in the hope of our salvation.
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called, Lætare (Rejoice), Sunday from the first words of the day’s liturgy, [the Introit]. Since this Sunday occurs in the middle of Lent, as Gaudete Sunday is celebrated midway through Advent, Lætare Sunday reminds us of the event we look forward to at the end of the Penitential Season. As on Gaudete Sunday, rose-colored vestments may replace violet, and flowers may grace the altar. In Lent, these outward signs symbolize the Church’s joy in anticipation of the Resurrection, a joy which cannot be contained even in this Penitential Season, though we still refrain from Alleluias and the singing of the Gloria until the magnificence of the Easter Vigil.
The central theme of today’s Readings is that our salvation is the free gift of a merciful God, given to us through Jesus, his Son. The Readings stress God’s mercy and compassion and remind us of the great love, kindness and grace extended to us in Christ.
As an act of love and gratitude to God who is “rich in mercy” and as an expression of our faith, we are invited to share Jesus’ sufferings by doing penance during Lent, so that we may inherit our eternal salvation and the glory of his Resurrection in Heaven. As we continue our Lenten observance for the fourth week, the Sacred Liturgy invites us to enter more deeply into the mystery of God’s grace, mercy, and salvation.
In the first Reading, taken from the Second Book of Chronicles, we learn the compassion and patience of God. God chose Cyrus the Great, a pagan conqueror, to become the instrument of his mercy and salvation for his chosen people exiled in Babylon.
In the second Reading, Paul tells us that God is so rich in mercy that he has granted us eternal salvation and eternal life as a free gift through Christ Jesus.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus the Son of God, has become the agent of God’s salvation, not just for one sinful nation but for the sinfulness of the whole world. Through Jn 3:16, the Gospel teaches us that God has expressed his love, mercy and compassion for us all by giving his only-begotten Son for our salvation.
Nicodemus, the wealthy Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, meets Jesus by night and begins a long religious discussion. Jesus explains to him that he must believe Jesus’ words because Jesus is the Son of God, and, by referring to the story of Moses and the bronze serpent, (Nm 21:1-9), further explains God’s plan of salvation. Just as God saved the victims of serpent bite from death through the bonze serpent, he is going to save mankind from its sins by permitting the crucifixion and death of his Son Jesus, because the love of God for mankind is that great.
Through the Readings and the Penitential Season we are in, the Church advises us that we need to love the cross, the symbol of God’s forgiving and merciful love. The crucifix – the symbol of the “lifted up” Jesus – holds a central place in our Churches because it is a forceful reminder not only of God’s love and mercy, but also of the price of our salvation. Hence, no Christian home should be without this symbol of God’s love.
The crucifix invites us to respond with more than compassion; it inspires us to remove the suffering of other people’s misery. It encourages us not only to feel deep sorrow for another’s suffering, but also to try our best to remove that suffering. Hence, let us love the cross, wear its image and carry our own daily cross with joy while helping others to carry their heavier crosses.
The Church reminds us that God’s love is unconditional, universal, forgiving, and merciful. Let us try, with his help, to make an earnest attempt to include these qualities as we share our love with others during Lent, for in them we love and serve him.
As Christians, we are meant to lead a life of repentance and on-going conversion, bringing us to a renewal of life with the help of the Holy Spirit living within us. The renewal of the Spirit comes when we work with him to be liberated from the bondage of evil habits by using the Divine strength we receive from him through prayer and frequenting the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.
When we allow the Light of God’s forgiveness to shine in our lives, it brightens up every corner, forgives every sin, restores our relationship with God, and renews our lives. Whoever follows Jesus will not walk in darkness. We will experience the joy and peace of sins forgiven, of new attitudes and of new relationships with God, family and friends. Jesus’ Light of truth, justice, holiness, and charity shining in our lives is meant to bring blessing to others.
We are to let this Light of Christ shine through us into the lives of the people around us. The Light we give to others can dispel the darkness of their lives and bring them to a completely new outlook. Let us not underestimate what the Light of Christ can do through us. As Jesus said: “You are the light of the world…. your light must shine before people so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in Heaven” (Mt. 5:14, 16).
Finally, we are called to rejoice today because grace has been made available, and our salvation is close at hand, (Jas 5, 8). What we simply need to do is, believe and live the good life which God created for us to live from the beginning. Good life means living as faithful children of God. It means living for God day after day, and time after time. This is the only way our joy can be complete.
Fr. Jude CSSp