Greetings on the 4th Sunday of Lent! Today is also called Laetare Sunday, from the first word in the Introit, or the opening verse, of the Mass, ‘Laetare, Jerusalem’ or ‘Rejoice, O Jerusalem’. Thus, just as during the season of Advent we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, in this season of Lent, we also have this short ‘break’ from the penitential nature of this season, and we reflect for a while on the theme of ‘joy’.
That is why today the vestments used are of the color rose rather than the deep penitential violet.
This part of the preparation of our minds, hearts and bodies for the com- ing of the celebration of the greatest mysteries of our Faith, the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. That we should know of the outcome of our penitence and repentance: the joy of liberation and freedom from all the harms and threats that await us as long as we remain in the state of sin. The Antiphon “Rejoice, O Jerusalem” continues: “ Be joyful, all who were in mourning.”
The cause of our joy is Jesus, the Son of God, lifted high on the cross, who brings us salvation (cf. John 3:14-21).
The author of our first reading chronicles how the people of Israel have been unfaithful to God. “All the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.” The people, led by the priests, fell into sin.
Rather than punish them outright, God sent messengers, the prophets, to warn the people and bring them back to fidelity and righteousness.
“But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets” (cf. 2 Chronicles 36). So the Lord allowed the enemies of Israel to invade their country, conquer them, destroy the Jerusalem and Temple, and deport the Israelites into exile in Babylon for seventy years.
Our Psalm today is from the time of the Babylonian Exile. “By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137).
After 70 years, King Cyrus of Persia conquered the Babylonians and permitted the Jews to return to their land. “Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!” He even decreed that the God of Israel had charged him with re- building the Temple. Through the pagan King Cyrus, God was restoring his people.
God pardons and raises up those who have been unfaithful, those who have loved the darkness rather than the light.
“For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son,” (John 3:16) lifted high on the cross, to deliver the world from exile (Psalm 137).
God bless you all,
Father Robert Letona