Holy Days March 9, 2018
The Fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as "Laetare Sunday", is permeated with a joy which, to some extent, attenuates the penitential atmosphere of this holy season. It gives us a foretaste of the joy of the encounter with the Risen Christ.
In Saint Peter's Square, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI talked about Laetare Sunday during the Angelus of March 26, 2006:
The Fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as "Laetare Sunday," is permeated with a joy which, to some extent, attenuates the penitential atmosphere of this holy season: "Rejoice Jerusalem!", the Church says in the Entrance Antiphon, "Be glad for her... you who mourned for her."
The refrain of the Responsorial Psalm echoes this invitation: "The memory of you, Lord, is our joy".
To think of God gives joy. We spontaneously ask ourselves: but why should we rejoice? One reason, of course, is the approach of Easter. The expectation of Easter gives us a foretaste of the joy of the encounter with the Risen Christ.
The deepest reason, however, lies in the message offered by the biblical readings that the liturgy presents to us today and that we have heard. They remind us that despite our unworthiness, God's infinite mercy is destined for us. God loves us in a way that we might call "obstinate" and enfolds us in his inexhaustible tenderness.
If Jesus' entire mission in history is an eloquent sign of God's love, his death, in which God's redeeming tenderness is fully expressed, is quite uniquely so. Always, but particularly in this Lenten Season, our meditation must be centred on the Cross. In it we contemplate the glory of the Lord that shines out in the martyred body of Jesus.
God's greatness, his being love, becomes visible precisely in this total gift of himself. It is the glory of the Crucified One that every Christian is called to understand, live and bear witness to with his life.
The Cross - the giving of himself on the part of the Son of God - is the definitive "sign" par excellence given to us so that we might understand the truth about man and the truth about God: we have all been created and redeemed by a God who sacrificed his only Son out of love.
Jesus who died and rose is the absolutely sufficient sign. Through him we can understand the truth about life and obtain salvation. This is the principal proclamation of the Church, which remains unchanged down the ages.
The Christian faith, therefore, is not an ideology but a personal encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ. From this experience, both individual and communitarian, flows a new way of thinking and acting: an existence marked by love is born, as the saints testify.
As we turn our gaze to Mary, "Mother of holy joy", let us ask her to help us deepen the reasons for our faith, so that, as today's liturgy urges us, renewed in the spirit and with a joyful heart, we may respond to the eternal and boundless love of God. Amen!