The Joy of the Resurrection is Coming!

“Even now return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.”

Gospel Antiphon, Tuesday the 3rd Week of Lent

Often when I am teaching as a catechist, I find myself saying, “In Catholicism it is rarely either/or.  We are a both/and faith!”  I was reminded of one more example of this truth this morning during my commute into work.  Fr. Michel Mulloy and Andy Shaw were interviewing another priest on Real Presence Live about Laetare Sunday.  Laetare means Rejoice and so on this Sunday, a bit more than half way through the somber season of Lent, the Church invites us to rejoice.  One of the interviewers rightly commented that it seems incongruous to rejoice amidst the penances, the fasting and the focus on the suffering and death of our Savior that marks Lent.  And I get that, but I also think about the many instances in life when joy is intermingled with great difficulty, suffering or sadness.  Take for instance the loss of a loved one.  There is much sadness at this time, but often there is also joy and laughter as family members gather, share memories and reconnect.  I recently read an interesting article on Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in which the author proposed that one of its causes was the loss of the camaraderie a soldier experiences in the midst of his or her military service.  In the midst of very difficult circumstances deep bonds are often formed between soldiers and this article proposed that the isolation and loss of that after service contributes to the syndrome.  This is another example of goodness amidst difficult circumstances.  So I think in one sense we can see our liturgical life simply reflecting the reality of the rest of life, that rejoicing in the midst of this serious, grave, and solemn season isn’t unique to Laetare Sunday. 

Perhaps too, the Church desires to remind us of the reason for our Lenten practices, namely that all we are doing and experiencing during Lent are ordered toward Easter.  Our fasting, almsgiving and prayer should be helping to free us from the bonds of sin that hold us, to empty us of those things in our lives which prevent us from fully experiencing God’s love and mercy, refocusing our minds and hearts on those things that are most important and expanding our hearts to more fully give and receive love.  All of these things bring us joy and are cause for rejoicing.  Mother Church, in her wisdom, gives us this Sunday both as an acknowledgment that we can already begin to feel the good fruits of our hard work and also an encouragement to keep going — to persevere.  All the hard work of Lent is worth it!  The joy of the resurrection is coming!  Let’s prepare well so that we can truly experience the grace and love poured out to us at Easter.   

The use of rose vestments on Laetere Sunday probably stems from an ancient papal tradition of blessing golden roses which would be sent to Catholic heads of state in Europe on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
Photo by Providence Doucet on Unsplash

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