“Rejoice, O Jerusalem, rejoice all you
that have been in sorrow.”
Today is Lætare Sunday,
approximately half way through the season of Lent. The Church takes this
occasion to remind us of the true purpose for our Lenten sacrifices. The
Mass today is on an “up-beat.” The vestments are rose instead of the
penitential violet or purple. A few flowers are permitted on the altar.
Organ music can be played. Even the vestments of the deacon and subdeacon
at solemn Mass reflect this momentary pause in the Lenten Season.
If we examine the texts of today's
Mass we will see once again that our Lenten observance is not one of fear or
cowering from the Lord; it is not some sort of attempt to separate the
spirit from the body, as though the body were evil as certain heretics would
have us believe. This Mass clearly points out that our Lent is, rather, a
putting aside of the ways of sin and death, in order to rejoice with our
In the Introit, the entrance
hymn of this Mass, the Church tells us:
Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together, all you that love her.
Rejoice with joy, all you that have been in sorrow, that you may
exult and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. [Ps. cxxi:
2] I rejoiced at the things they said to me; we shall go into the
house of the Lord.
“Jerusalem,” of course is the
biblical way of speaking of God's people. In these words from the Prophet
Isaias, he is inviting all those that have been in sorrow—all those lost to
sin—to be filled with the milk of God's consolation—to rejoice and to return
to the house of God. Again, not in fear, but in rejoicing.
Saint Paul is suggesting a similar
thing in his words to the Galatians.
There are two covenants: one indeed ... bringing forth children into
bondage, But [the other is] that Jerusalem which is above [and] is
free, which is our mother.
He is reminding us that God loves
all his children; that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for
the redemption of the entire human race. But that some of His children
ignored the offer of His salvation, and followed the covenant of bondage to
sin and death. On the other, others followed the covenant of freedom, the
joyful following of God to the New Jerusalem on high.
But unlike the relationship of
Father Abraham to his offspring, our covenant is not an accident of birth.
Ishmael was born to the slave girl Agar; Isaac was born to the freewoman
Sara; neither mother nor son could do anything to change their state of
bondage or freedom. Our Father, on the other hand, is the Heavenly Father.
He lets us choose our own destiny. We can choose the bondage of sin,
corresponding of the exile of Ishmael into the desert; or we can choose the
freedom of sanctifying grace, corresponding to the to the land of promise
inherited by the descendants of Isaac.
In fact, even if we have mistakenly
chosen the wrong inheritance, our Father in heaven is willing to accept our
repentance and to restore us to the freedom of grace. We might take a cue
from this if we have been putting off our Lenten confession. If we carry
this analogy a bit further, we can see that when we go to confession and
state our case to the priest, it is like appearing before a civil judge who
hears our plea and who restores to us our rightful possessions and estates.
These things belong to us by right—our salvation has been bought and paid
for by our Lord Jesus Christ—yet it remains for us to claim them before the
tribunal of penance. So to speak, we have to register our adoption and our
claim to inheritance with the judge—in this case the priest who judges us in
Confession, and ultimately through him, our Lord Jesus Christ.
And, lest this all seem too
theoretical, too much like wishful thinking, the Gospel gives us a
foreshadowing of that mystery which we will come to know in greater detail
on Holy Thursday as we celebrate the anniversary of the Last Supper. Today
we see but an image of the heavenly banquet. We see how the Lord
demonstrated His power to make a few loaves of bread present to thousands of
people; we see how He demonstrated His mastery over the natural processes
of the world.
This Gospel is taken from the sixth
chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. I would like to ask all of you to read it
from your Bible when you return home today. We only read the beginning, but
in the latter part, our Lord explained that one year later, at the feast of
the Passover, He was going to give His followers His body and blood to eat
and drink—and that those who refused would not have eternal life in them.
It is important also, in that it reaffirms the fact that our Lord quite
literally gives us His actual body and blood in Holy Communion—it is a
reality and not a symbol. We know this is true because our Lord did not
back down when some in the crowd questioned His ability: “How can this man
give us His flesh to eat?”
He just let them walk away, rather than back down from the truth of what He
was going to do.
As we keep a good Lent we will
relive the experiences of Last Supper and the Crucifixion, and we will share
the joy of the Resurrection. If we keep a good Lent, we will freely choose
to join God in these events of our salvation by frequent and regular
participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which incorporates all
Yet, we are still free to choose
bondage. Our free will is a necessary part of all this. If we weren't
free, it wouldn't mean much to choose God.
And perhaps that is the purpose for
this Sunday—to help us make the right choice. To understand that being good
Catholics has nothing to do with putting on a long face, or making one's
self unhappy, or trying to suffer for no reason at all—but, rather, that
being a good Catholic has to do with rejoicing, and with finding the freedom
that comes only from the following of God's laws, and with receiving the
graces that come only through His Sacraments.
We need not sorrow in the desert,
for we are called to rejoice in the heavenly Jerusalem.
“I rejoiced at the things they said to
me; we shall go into the house of the Lord.”