Today is Lætare Sunday, from the first word in Latin of the introit antiphon, “Rejoice, Jerusalem!” We have reached the midpoint of Lent and know that the joy of Easter is not far off. The liturgy expresses this joy this weekend by fading the penitential purple of the Lenten vestments to a more festive rose.
The cause for rejoicing which today’s liturgy puts before us is the mercy of God, who is “rich in mercy.” (Second Reading) Saint Paul explains that God’s mercy comes from “the great love he had for us.” That love is articulated in today’s Gospel in the famous verse of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Jesus speaks of being “lifted up.” This has a threefold meaning: his being lifted up on the cross in sacrifice, his being raised up in the resurrection in victory over sin and death, and his being exalted in glory by his ascension into heaven. Through baptism and the other sacraments, we continue to die with him and rise with him: “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] brought us to life with Christ …, raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens with Christ Jesus.” (Second Reading)
Always, but especially in Lent, the Church invites us to trust and celebrate the richness of God’s mercy. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (Gospel) Through the sacrament of penance, God offers us all the grace of forgiveness in this celebration of divine mercy. Come to confession again this Lent, and rejoice!
The sacrament of penance is the most powerful means of persevering in this resolve, because its grace is the result of Christ’s obedient sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The Lenten discipline of prayer and penance finds its completion in a good confession and act of contrition. The prayer of absolution frees us from the sinful entanglements into which we have fallen. It renews in us the cleansing and life-giving waters of baptism we call “sanctifying grace.” Take advantage of the opportunities for confession and the conversion it affords. Remember also to participate in Operation Rice Bowl or in some other charitable cause this Lent.
This Friday, March 19, is the solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary and Patron of the Universal Church. This year we are in the midst of a double “year of Saint Joseph”: one proclaimed by Bishop Callahan for our diocese on May 1, and another proclaimed by Pope Francis for the Universal Church on December 8. Even though it comes during spring break and school will not be in session, we will celebrate this solemnity with due honor at the 8:30 Mass this coming Friday morning at St. Peter.
Please remember and try to attend the Stations of the Cross this week at St. Peter along with the Mother of Perpetual Help Novena on Monday evening at 6:30 and at St. Charles before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on Friday evening at 5:30. Try to participate with the members of your household. These devotions are great for families and remind us all of the redemptive sacrifice of our Lord, which is the source of all sacramental grace and serves as a fitting preparation for the liturgies of Holy Week.
Pray the Rosary this week for all throughout our diocese who are preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation this Easter, and for the young people of our parish preparing for their First Holy Communion or Confirmation. Pray for people experiencing turmoil in their lives, for whatever reason. Pray for all who are struggling with illness and for the people who care for them. Pray for Christians who are suffering persecution around the world and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.