Fourth Sunday of Lent
JN 3:14-21
March 11, 2018

We are halfway through Lent 2018. This 4th Sunday of the Liturgical Season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving…not unlike the midpoint of Advent, has a name.

Today we mark Laetare Sunday. The third Sunday in the four-week-long Season of Advent is called Gaudette Sunday.

The two Latin words both have the same meaning: JOY. But it seems that there is a subtle distinction between them. Gaudette describes the kind of excitement and happiness that bubbles up from within us. In other words, internal feelings brought about by “the season” that can no longer be contained and are expressed. Laetare is more external and it’s joy in spite of “the season.” We take a break from the somber practices and anticipate the joy of hearing the message: HE IS RISEN! We get a break from ashes and sack cloth.

Several different spiritual authors have suggested that because Catholics today are far less committed to observing the ancient traditions and practices of Lent, there is no need to take a break, and so there is no spurt of joy.Theologian Monika Hellwig put it this way: The rejoicing does not seem to come quite as spontaneously nowadays as it used to when Lent was, for the most part, far more rigorously observed. In other words, for many Catholics, Lent is “business as usual.” There is no need to re-charge when there has been nothing taken from our ordinary ways.

That being said, I readily admit that I personally do not feel a sense of joy today, nor have I for the past week. And I suspect that many of our sisters and brothers here in the Diocese of Saginaw would say the same, whether or not they have been observing a “good old-fashioned Lent.”

Why no joy for me this Laetare Sunday?

The media has been reporting conditions in our Church that echo the opening lines of our First Reading from The Second Book of Chronicles. And as that passage unfolds, things go from bad to worse. The story ends in total destruction. Please, God, spare us further suffering. Let us once again experience joy.

So we look to our Second Reading for relief. There, St. Paul reminds the Ephesians, as well as us today…of who we are and what we are about. In spite of the things that threaten our peace and rob us of our joy, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared.

As we venture into the second half of Lent 2018, more than ever, we need to keep focused on The Cross, the source of our hope and of our salvation. Whether or not we embrace the traditions and practices of Lent that have been passed on through the generations, we must continue to embrace The Cross and enjoy its healing powers. As our prayer goes…By Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

Let’s pick up The Cross and continue our journey knowing that after every Good Friday comes Easter Sunday.