4th Sunday of Lent Reflection by Gabriel Mayhugh

Today marks the half-way point of Lent. We are almost there, so it’s time to get a little excited. The Fourth Sunday of Lent was once called Laetare Sunday. The Latin word Laetare is translated to Rejoice! “Rejoice” is the very first word that is said at Mass in the Entrance Antiphon or Introit. You will hear the antiphon this week at the 11:15 a.m. Mass:

Rejoice, O Jerusalem; and gather round, all you who love her; rejoice in gladness, after having been in sorrow; exult and be replenished with the consolation flowing from her motherly bosom. -Isaiah 66:10-1

This mid-Lenten joy can be seen in the readings today: The joy experienced in the healing in the wilderness from the first reading, the joy of being recipients of God’s grace in the second reading. And the joy shown through the love of God that is offered to us through God’s son in today’s Gospel.

We also hear one of the most quoted and most known Gospel readings from John. It begins with Nicodemus saying “… so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. God so loved the world that he gave his only so, so that everyone who believes in him might not parish but might have eternal life …” The reading concludes with: “Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his words may be seen as done in God.”

The concept of rejoicing and the notion of Sunday as the weekly day of resurrection have been on my mind in thinking about these readings. The question that I ponder is what does it mean to live “the truth that comes to the light?” We use Lent as a time for us to rethink our identity as Baptized Christians and how we live that Baptismal identity. Reflecting upon and renewing our relationship to our own baptism shows us the way to live as a light to the world. Every year I try to do two things for Lent. First I go for what is very simple and tangible. Like most people, I give up something. I avoid one of my favorite things in the entire world: dessert. It’s a small addiction of mine, so it is not easy. Not. Easy. I do this every year because it is a good method of denying myself something so that I can readily embrace this season and my Lenten resolution. I also make a Lenten resolution that I hope will continue beyond Lent. This year I resolved to listen more fully. Not just to hear people’s words and respond to them, but also to embody what is being said so that I can come to know the person a little more. All of this leads me back to the “truth that comes to the light.” I pondered this Gospel in the context of listening. Listening gives me the opportunity to hear a person’s truth and to bring that truth to the light through my own response and personal understanding. I’ve done pretty well in this effort so far.

Most of us have done something or at least tried to do something. If you have, this is your rejoicing day. You are almost to Easter. And if you haven’t done something today is still a rejoicing day because no matter what, Christ died and rose for all and you still have time before Easter. Lent, penitence and denial are not the summits of our liturgical year. It is Easter that is the summit of our Liturgical year. Lent is about how we prepare to celebrate Easter Sunday, but more importantly Lent prepares us to celebrate every Sunday throughout the year. 

As we take the next weeks preparing for Holy Week and Easter, we should keep our eye on the goal of Easter Sunday and every Sunday of the year. Catholics do a very good job at Lent, but we often have a difficult time rejoicing year-round in the Son who was lifted up so that all who believe in him may have eternal life. Keep the rejoicing going.