Rejoicing in Lent
Mar 20, 2017
A Blessed Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday!
Today, our official color is rose and we may have flowers to decorate the altar. It’s the midpoint of Lent and we joyfully anticipate remembering and celebrating our salvation in the Paschal Mystery: the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord!
Laetare Sunday’s sentiment is one of hope and rejoicing that Easter is near. This day is extra special because it is also the day of the second scrutiny (examination) in preparation for the baptism of catechumens on Easter Vigil. The prayer itself is a great cause for rejoicing:
Lord Jesus, you are the true light that enlightens the world. Through your Spirit of truth free those who are enslaved by the father of lies. Stir up the desire for good in these elect, whom you have chosen for your sacraments. Let them rejoice in your light, that they may see, and, like the man born blind whose sight you restored, let them prove to be staunch and fearless witnesses to the faith, for you are Lord for ever and ever.
We all wish to be fed with joy now and forever. The discipline of Lent by this time should have been enriching and strengthening our poor weak nature into temples of grace.
Holy Mother the Church reminds us the causes of true joy this Laetare Sunday.
The FIRST source is Easter confession (Cf. Romans 10:9). It emancipates us from the slavery of sin. We free ourselves (at last) from the willful suffering which we put on ourselves through our sinful choices. We receive the freedom of Christ’s Gospel of love (and mercy) because we have been liberated from the bondage of fear and uncertainty which prevailed in the days before Christ. Mark your calendars and seize this blessed opportunity! Our Penance Service will be this Wednesday, March 29th at 7PM.
The SECOND source is renewed faith (Cf. Luke 17:5). Faith is not just about what we know (albeit, basic) but also about our “lifestyle”. Have we actually (and finally) thought of seriously and sincerely “resetting” or “setting ourselves right” with God especially this grace-filled Lent? Grace reminds us that God’s mercy is offered to us always as a gift: “Come back to Me with all your heart!” Yet grace is also our responsibility, that is, the ability to respond: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner” and “Your will be done”. Saying “No” to God is (always) our loss, not God’s. Saying “Yes” opens ourselves to freedom and peace that springs forth from sheer mercy, Divine Mercy! “In atonement for our sins and those of the whole world!”
The THIRD is deepened discipline (Cf. Luke 9:23) A good disciple follows Jesus and embodies His discipline (holy habits) and the greatest fruit of devotion is imitation (becoming Christ). Have we been appreciating and grateful experiencing praying better, fasting (abstaining) better, and working for mercy (a.k.a. almsgiving) better. Yes, not more but better! Have I been listening (discerning) better (as opposed to only talking) in praying? Have I been better detached from what I do not really need or from things I can live even without? Have I grown humbler, better in forgiving and being compassionate than simply being ritualistic and intellectual in my Lenten practice?
“Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises humanity to Heaven” (St. Ephraem of Syria).
The FOURTH is Easter communion (Cf. Matthew 5:23) which is the fruit of proper preparation and thanksgiving. The soul’s instinctive hunger is satisfied by our personal communing with God -- through our neighbor, Jesus in disguise.
Since the First Sunday of Lent, have I been renewing my love for the Word and the Real Presence? The Eucharist is God conversing with us nourishing us, transforming us in and through the humble Bread and Wine. Humanity thus fed with Divinity, is joyously united in a real social and mystical union. “We become what we eat” (St. Augustine).
The acid test if our Lent this year has been, so far, bearing fruit is that we have been becoming better in loving “God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves”. Are we living as bread for others? Do we live a life willing to broken and shared for others?
Easter is close, have we fervently been preparing and deepening ourselves to deserve the JOY of Easter?