Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B
The words which the Church uses to introduce today’s Holy Mass are an invitation to rejoice. From that invitation, this fourth Sunday of Lent takes the name ‘Laetare Sunday’. In the introit of the Mass, the liturgy uses the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.”
Why does the Church call us to rejoice when we are in the midst of our penitential journey? We are faced with a similar question to that which St Peter asked of Dante in the Divine Comedy. Having examined Dante thoroughly on the subject of the theological virtue of faith, St Peter asks him: “this precious joy, on which every virtue is founded, from where did you get it?”
Each of today’s readings address this question. To the people of Judah who “added infidelity to infidelity” the Lord God “tirelessly sent them messenger after messenger, since he wished to spare his people and his house.”. From the Letter of Ephesians we hear that God was “generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ.” The evangelist brings us into the secret nocturnal dialogue between Christ and Nicodemus “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.”
Despite the countless infidelities of humanity, which seemed to mock the God who created us out of love and who calls us to true life, the Lord kept sending messengers to correct his people. More than that, he so loved the world that he bestowed upon us the abundance of his mercy, by sending the only-begotten Son who was with Him from all eternity. The Father has, in this way, given us the unbelievable and undeserved gift of His own Joy and so we should proclaim it joyfully together with the whole Church.
Christian joy is neither an intellectual concept nor a moral proposition to be followed. It is actually a person, Jesus of Nazareth, the only-begotten Son of the Father and the Son of Man. This Joy is a gift which has been given to us, if only we would accept it in gratitude to God and his Church. It is a gift which has been continuously offered to us by the Church for the last two thousand years, one which the whole universe cannot contain but which gives life to all things.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has been calling us back to this truth with gentle insistence since the beginning of his papacy. It is a message which comes to us in a special way today as we journey towards Calvary. In a few weeks the Son of Man will be lifted up on the cross, where he opens his arms to welcome us and make us partakers in that life which triumphs at Easter.
Faced with God’s incredible initiative, we grow in the desire that enlarges our hearts and prepares us to receive the joy of GodWe also grow in gratitude towards Mary who by her ‘fiat’ became the Gate of Heaven and Cause of our Joy. From our Blessed Mother we ask for light, guidance and protection so that we will not ‘forget Jerusalem’, or prefer the darkness to the light. United with Mary, we can know the truth and truly be “God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.”