Lent: March 22nd
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Other Titles: Laetare Sunday
"Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts." This Sunday is known as Laetare Sunday and is a Sunday of joy. Lent is half over, and Easter is enticingly near.
The Church’s liturgy, on this the fourth Sunday of Lent, invites us to retrace one of the fundamental dynamics of our baptismal re-birth through the Gospel account of the healing of the ‘man born blind’. It is the passage from the darkness of sin and error to the Light of God, who is the Risen Christ.
This Sunday is called "Laetare Sunday" since its mood and theme was one of hope and rejoicing that Easter was near. In the reformed calendar this Sunday is not different from the other Sundays of Lent even though the entrance antiphon for the day still begins with the Latin word laetare (rejoice) and the vestments worn by the celebrant can be rose-colored. The day is important because it is the day of the Second Scrutiny in preparation for the baptism of adults at the Easter Vigil.
The first reading, first Book of Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a,l contains, at best, oblique references to the other two readings. The anointing of David as king may be a reference to the anointing in the responsorial psalm both of which may refer to Christ the good shepherd. The figure of David may also be a prefigurement of the anointing to Messiahship of Jesus for his mission. Whatever the reason for its selection for this day, the theme of the liturgy is better reflected in the other two readings for they present implications and applications of the baptism of the believer.
The second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians 5:8-14 is particularly significant because throughout the season of Lent the community has been urged to cast aside deeds of darkness and walk in the brilliance of the light of Christ. In this reading, for the first time during Lent, the darkness-light theme which will be so predominant at Easter is enunciated. The believer must leave the deeds of darkness and live according to the justice and truth of God through the light of Christ. The selection of this reading for the Sunday liturgy of the second scrutiny emphasizes clearly that the preparation of a person coming to the faith is one of moral formation as well as in-formation about the faith. The preparation of adults to be baptized has more to do with choices and deeds than it does with dogmatic teaching.
The Gospel reading, John 9:1-41, dominates the liturgy by the length of the reading and its significance. Already, in Old Testament Revelation, the Lord God had shown the People of Israel how the justice of the Creator was so much more profound and true that the thoughts of men. We have, in fact, heard in the first reading ‘God does not see as human beings see; they look at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.' (1 Sam 16:76). The Lord pointed out in this way the true, unique, criteria on which men are judged. He also indicated the unique place in which man can meet God’s gaze and enter into a relationship with Him—in his heart. Obviously, by the word ‘heart’ the Bible doesn’t mean the centre of pulsation, but man’s ‘shrine’, his conscience where he can really listen and recognise God’s voice and so benefit from the Light: ‘for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and uprightness and truth’. (Eph 5:9)
Man, incapable of remaining faithful to the truth that is in him, falls back to his own limited criteria. This criteria produces every malice, injustice and falsehood and is used to govern himself, to decide between good and evil, whilst hoping that what he obtains will be to his benefit and so in this way he acts ‘like God’ (Gen 3:5).
God doesn’t give up but comes to meet everyone of us in the two fold way described in today’s Gospel. Firstly, ‘he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes’ (Jn 9:6). God made man, who is a creature. He united Himself to ‘our earth’ so that man would never need to flee Him, but could come to recognise Him through a meeting with His Holy Humanity. St John wrote in the Prologue to his Gospel, ‘The Word became flesh, he lived among us’ (Jn 1:14).
In the second place from the Gospel account we read, ’He said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—‘. (Jn 9:7a). Christ, sent by the Father, takes onto Himself all our sins, which are ultimately the consequences of our blindness, as far as allowing Himself to be stripped, crowned with thorns, nailed to the cross, rejected by His own people and abandoned by His closest friends. Christ’s unprecedented love can’t but definitively overcome, with time, every fear in the face of our limitations because there isn’t anything that can stop Him from loving us. From the loving assumption of our rejection to our obtuseness murder, the Lord has worked extraordinary feats in history. He frequently offered His Body to the Father for our salvation and therefore has consecrated His entire Person for every one of us. He has introduced us into His Most Holy Heart, inflamed with love for us, which is the same as God’s light. In the Light of the Resurrection he made us a ‘new creation’ (cfr 2 Cor 5:17) and in the Gospel account we have heard ‘he went and washed, and came back able to see’. (Jn 9:7)
The indestructible link with Christ, which is founded on His love and fidelity, is the ‘new creation’ that was given to us on the day of our Baptism. Through the Sacraments of Christian initiation we are more profoundly linked with Christ. This ‘new creation’ can not bring fourth fruit in us without the full and renewed consent of our liberty that, in this earthly life, is expressed, reinvigorated and triumphs through the extraordinary events that Christ works in our lives. The blind man was interrogated by the world as to the precise details of his cure and with great simplicity he explained what happened to him: ‘The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.”’ (Jn 9:11)
Let us ask Most Holy Mary to help us to be faithful to the truth, to the events of our lives, taking the hand that always takes us to live totally for Him, in this life and eternity. ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ (Eph 5:14).
From the Congregation for the Clergy
This church is one of the seven pilgrim churches in Rome. St. Helen, mother of the emperor Constantine, had a church built in Rome to house the relics of the Passion of Our Lord which she had obtained during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. St. Helen discovered the true Cross of Our Savior with its title and the instruments of His Death like the nails and the crown of thorns. She had the top layer from Mount Calvary removed and placed in barges which carried this material to Rome. She then had the builders use this soil as the ground on which she had the basilica built for the sacred relics. The true Cross and other holy items have been kept in this basilica since its consecration in the fourth century and can be visited to this day. Because of the great relic enshrined there the basilica is called the Holy Cross and because it is built on the soil from Mount Calvary it is said to be in Jerusalem.
We all "wish" to be fed with joy,now and forever. The discipline of Lent may sadden our poor frail nature, so the Church analyzes the causes of true joy on this Rejoice or Laetare Sunday (Introit). The first source of genuine joy is a sincere Easter Confession; it emancipates us from the slavery of sin. We now enjoy the freedom of Christ's Gospel of love, because we have been freed from the bondage of that fear which prevailed in the days before Christ (Epistle).
The second source of genuine joy is a fruitful Easter Communion, for which proper preparation and thanksgiving have been made. The soul's instinctive hunger is satisfied by the personal com-muning with God. In the picture, the Host and Chalice are seen descending upon men of all races (symbolized by the awaiting crowd). Humanity thus fed with Divinity, is joyously united in a real social and mystical union. Men will then work for one another in "a city which is compact together" (Communion Verse).
Excerpted from My Sunday Missal, Confraternity of the Precious Blood
Fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday)
Station with Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross In Jerusalem):
This church is one of the seven pilgrim churches in Rome. St. Helen, mother of the emperor Constantine, had a church built in Rome to house the relics of the Passion of Our Lord which she had obtained during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. St. Helen discovered the true Cross of Our Savior with its title and the instruments of His death such as the nails and the crown of thorns. She had the top layer from Mount Calvary removed and placed in barges that carried this material to Rome. She then had the builders use this soil as the ground on which she had the basilica built for the sacred relics. The true Cross and other holy items have been kept in this basilica since its consecration in the fourth century and can be visited to this day. Because of the great relic enshrined there, the basilica is called the Holy Cross and because it is built on the soil from Mount Calvary it is said to be in Jerusalem.
For more on Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, see:
For further information on the Station Churches, see The Stational Church.