Celebration is not usually something we’d think of indulging in while doing penance; joy is not what immediately comes to mind alongside mortification. However, every single year, the Fourth Sunday of Lent invites us into a day of rejoicing. The famous introit Laetare Jerusalem et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam… Rejoice Jerusalem and come together all you who love her, greets us three weeks out from the great Easter Solemnity as a reminder of perseverance and pause in our otherwise austere season.
Fittingly, the image of humanity responding to this joy and responding to this calling from God plays a focal point in the scripture’s appointed to be read today. From Samuel’s finding and anointing of David, son of Jesse, to be God’s chosen king, to the call of humanity to step from darkness to light as delineated by Saint Paul’s epistle, to the response of the man born blind from John’s Gospel, we see how receptive human interaction with the divine always leaves the human subject with a better-off and more joy filled existence. The joy then, that this Sunday calls us to experience, is a joy that is not found in fleeting or passing pleasures of things below, but rather in the “light of the Lord” that each of us is called to live in. Preachers for years have made commentary on the liturgical color “Rose” set apart for this weekend as an appropriate mixture of the darker purple that is a hallmark of the penitential seasons mixed with a tinge of the light of Easter that is yet to come.
Last week’s time change makes the time of daylight much more palpable and lasting to our day-to-day lives. This light can also be seen in the pillar of fire that is the Easter Candle, which in most churches is now, almost a year out from last Easter, is only a shadow of its former self. The new fire is to be lit, the new light is to be given, and the new candle is set to burn brightly in just three weeks, to dispel the darkness from our hearts and our lives, and truly open our eyes from the blindness that we may have been trapped behind to see things anew in the light of Christ.
The two saints who bookend this Sunday’s celebration had a similar experience of the light of Christ leading them to a newfound joy. Patrick, who’s feast was celebrated on Friday allowed the light of Christ to lead him back to a land that had formerly enslaved him so as to bring to those in a spiritual slavery to the joyful life of Jesus. Saint Joseph, whose Monday Solemnity gives brief pause to the Lenten season, reminds us through his revelatory dreams and courageous example of fatherhood that welcoming the light of Jesus Christ allows us to have such a profound change of heart that we can begin to live our lives completely and totally without reservation for Jesus.
Rejoicing in an isolated and cutoff experience of the Lenten season might seem out of place; but in the big picture, with the light that surrounds us and is only growing, taking some time to rejoice might be the only appropriate response we can give.
By: Fr. Christopher M Peschel, KCHS
Pastor, Our Lady of Mt Carmel