Lætáre, Jerusalem! “Rejoice, O Jerusalem…rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow” (Isaiah 66:10-11). Here we are, in the heart of Lent, rejoicing. We can experience a breath of fresh air as we make our way past the halfway point of this solemn season. “Laetare” Sunday from the word “rejoice” in the Introit today reminds us that God is the source of our joy, even amidst our sufferings of meatless Fridays, empty candy jars, and the like. This strikes more acutely during what has become a global pandemic. Society as a whole is being turned upside down with the extinction of restaurant dining, sporting events, and regular schooling. More disheartening is that many faithful around the world will go without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the days to come. While this is all rather ominous, we are to rejoice today.
Joy is a common theme throughout today’s liturgy. In the Epistle Paul reminds us of our intimate relationship with God as his sons and daughters. We are heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, made free from the bounds of other powers by way of Christ (Gal 4:22-31). Remembering this as our true identity and our true aim, we do not need to be afraid of suffering from a virus or any other looming threat. We are not bound to this world for the rest of eternity. We are bound to our identity as children of God. During this time, we can choose to live in fear of suffering and death, or we can rejoice in the everlasting life that awaits us in Christ.
This day is also known as “Refreshment Sunday” in reference to the Gospel reading for today. The Gospel writer John recounts the events in which Jesus multiplied five loaves of bread and two fishes for 5,000 people to eat (John 6:1-15). Like the crowds on the mountain, Jesus gives us food for the journey as we continue our penances in this latter half of Lent. We can be refreshed even in the spiritual communion that many of us will be making today.
Today’s rejoicing should fortify us in our resolutions and sufferings, that we may unite them to Christ’s forthcoming Passion. We must remember that God is in complete control as the source of all being, goodness, truth, and beauty. Even when we are entrenched in the struggles of this world, God is the source of all our joy. With knowledge of the Easter that awaits us, we will rejoice.