SUNDAY, FOURTH WEEK OF LENT (LAETARE SUNDAY)
Jos 5:9-12; Ps 34:2-7; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Lk 15:1-3,11-32
PINK WITH JOY
Today is Laetare Sunday. The word Laetare in Latin means ‘Rejoice’. The Church invites us to rejoice on this day because Easter is close at hand and the day of our salvation draws near. As a symbol of rejoicing, priests can wear pink-coloured vestments at mass instead of the purple that symbolize penitence and austerity. On this day the altar is decked with flowers and the liturgy has a festive ambiance.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22). A good Christian is one who is always joyful. Thus St Paul exclaimed, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4). This joy comes from a heart that is grateful. When we begin to count our blessings we realise how fortunate we are. But sometimes things become difficult and life becomes hard. Even in such moments a Christian is called to be joyful and thankful. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:16-18). In suffering too we have a reason to rejoice because, “…we know that suffering produces perseverance…” (Rom 5:3). Jesus tells us to be happy when we are reviled on his account, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” (Mt 5:12). Therefore, the disciples rejoiced when they were persecuted because they had been considered worthy to suffer for Jesus (cf. Acts 5:41).
Our Lord is a God of joy. He too rejoices. The Bible tells us that he rejoices in you and in me. “The Lord will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17). Prophet Isaiah too vividly echoes these joyful sentiments of God, “…as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Is 62:5). The holy ones of God found their strength in this very joy of the Lord (Neh 8:10).
When does the Lord rejoice over us? The Gospel reading today makes us understand that God rejoices when we turnback to him in humility and with a repentant heart. The father of the prodigal son who represents God rejoiced when his son came home (cf. Lk 15:32). Similarly, from the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, we realise that the Lord rejoices when a sinner repents and enters into his embrace. Our Lord also rejoices over us when we are faithful to what has been entrusted to us. Jesus assured us that if we keep his commandment of love, his joy will be in our hearts and our own joy will be complete (cf. Jn 15:11).
A person who is pessimistic, who is always whining, grumbling and complaining, makes life miserable for the people around him/her. Speaking of such people, St Teresa of Avila wrote, “A sad nun is a bad nun … I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits… What would happen if we hid what little sense of humour we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.” Joy is contagious. It helps us make one another’s burdens lighter. When someone is down in the dumps, the presence of a joyful person is like a balm to the wounded.
Pope Francis reminds us that, “True joy is not found in material things… It is born of the encounter and relations with others, from feeling accepted, understood and loved; from accepting, understanding and loving…” It is a gift from the Lord, and we are called to share this gift with others so that our own joy may abound.
Response: Taste and see that the Lord is good.
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