Laetare Sunday

This Sunday is traditionally known as Laetare Sunday; Laetare is a Latin word that means “rejoice” and on this Sunday is a day in which the Church tells us to rejoice.  This is reflected in the prayers which remind us that Easter is swiftly drawing near: this Sunday is the point at which we are halfway through Lent.  Easter approaches and Our Holy Mother, the Church, gives us a little breathing space in our Lenten discipline and calls us to rejoice as Easter swiftly approaches.  It may seem strange to have a day of rejoicing in the midst of a penitential season, a season in which we are called to deny ourselves and turn away from sin in order that we may follow the Gospel more faithfully.

This combination of joy in the midst of sorrow is not unnatural; if we stop and reflect for a moment, we will realize that joy and sorrow are often closely associated.  How frequently joy is born of suffering, how frequently bitter grief crushes out joy.  This connection between joy and sorrow is appropriately symbolized by the rose color of the vestments for today’s Mass.  Roses represent joy and yet they always come with thorns.  Isn’t it strange that nature adds thorns to the most beautiful of all flowers?

The rosebush can give us a lesson in the spiritual life: it represents for us the combination of sorrow and joy that we all experience in our spiritual journey.  We are to have sorrow for our sins, and yet we are also called to have joyous hope in the victory that Christ has won for us.  The sacrifices of Lent and joy of the Easter Season make up two extremes, but we are called to enter into both: at times we are called to fast and at times we are called to feast.

This combination of joy and sorrow was modeled for us in Our Lord’s own life.  The Eternal Son of God became a man, like us in all things except sin, in order to suffer and die for us.  Our Lord underwent His bitter Passion before He gloriously rose triumphant.  The suffering that Our Lord endured was the means of our Redemption.  Without the Sorrow of Good Friday there would be no Victory of Easter Sunday.  Just as it went for Christ our Head . . . so too it goes for us: His mystical body.  Christ leads and we are to follow.  Christ said that if we would follow Him we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.  And it is only in dying to ourselves that we experience the abundant life that Our Lord offers to us.

In today’s Gospel, Our Lord tells us that He came into the world to be Light for the world.  Jesus came to show us the way to the Father.  Jesus Christ reveals God’s love to us and He reveals the love that we are called to have for God and for others.  On the Cross, Jesus showed us what it means to love with all of our heart and all of our minds and all of our strength.  True love make a complete gift of self to the beloved: and we are called to love God above all things.

The thing that stands in the way of us giving ourselves wholly to God is sin.  We sin whenever we put other things or other people ahead of God.  We sin when we fail to love others as ourselves.  Let us make use of the time that is left in this holy season of Lent to root sin out of our hearts, so that we can truly allow Christ to reign in our hearts and in our lives.  Let us empty ourselves of all that is not pleasing to Our Lord, by means of our Lenten prayer, self-denial, and almsgiving, that we may celebrate Easter with hearts renewed and full of the true peace and joy that comes from knowing and loving God with all of our mind, with all of our soul, with all of our strength.  Lord Jesus, help us to overcome sin that we may experience the abundant life and joy that only You can give; help us to love as You call us to love.  Amen.