Back in the days when the Latin language was much more in evidence in the Church and our liturgies, the fourth Sunday of Lent was commonly called “Laetare” Sunday because the first word of the entrance antiphon for the Mass on that day was Laetare, which means Rejoice. And what were we then, and are we now, rejoicing about deep in the somber season of Lent? The opening prayer of the Mass gives us the answer to that question. “Oh God,” it says, “through your Word you reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way. Grant, we pray, that with prompt devotion and eager faith the Christian people may hasten toward the solemn celebrations to come.”
And what are these solemn celebrations? They are those which will gladden us in Holy Week—when we commemorate what Our Divine Lord did for us on that first “Holy Thursday,” that first “Good Friday,” and then the great Sabbath, or “rest” of the dead Christ in the tomb for some forty hours between sundown on Good Friday when he died on the cross until before sunrise on that Sunday morning when he rose from death into new life forever.
Thus this weekend we have Laetare Sunday; next Sunday we will have what used to be called Passion Sunday when most of the religious images in our churches were shrouded in purple, and the following Sunday will be Palm Sunday when we commemorate Our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem in preparation for his passion, death, and resurrection.
Now is the time for us to renew our Lenten practices and observances. Lent is an important part of our liturgical year and our spiritual life. To go through Lent without “living” it as the Church intends is a waste of precious time, a waste of a rich opportunity to draw closer to our Blessed Lord. Let us be responsible, my dear friends. Let us make use of these marvelous means that the Church offers us to deepen our union with Jesus. To fail to take advantage of the season of Lent is foolish and trivial, like the attitude of those for whom Christmas means nothing more than Santa Claus, Easter nothing more than marshmallow rabbits, and our Independence Day nothing more than fireworks.
We might well use the responsorial verse for this Sunday’s Mass as a brief meditation and prayer for this weekend. It says: Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you, O Lord! Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.