Rejoice in the Love of Our Lord
Gospel Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Lent
This Sunday, you may have noticed the priest wearing a different color than you’re used to seeing. He may have been wearing a rose vestment instead of the Lenten violet. This is to celebrate Laetare Sunday, named after the first word of the collect from Mass: “Rejoice!”
“Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.” Isaiah 66:10-11
Similar to Gaudete Sunday on the Third Sunday of Advent, the Church expresses hope and joy in the midst of penance. The change in color gives us a glimpse of what we are hoping and longing for: Easter! According to Simply Catholic, “it is the Church’s way of giving us a ‘shot in the arm’ as we approach the darkness and horror of the days through Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It’s an opportunity to savor and keep in the back of our minds what awaits us on Easter Sunday — the reality that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, and that our hearts will always be filled with joy!”
Some traditions have called this Mothering Sunday since “our right to be called the sons of God is the source of all of our joy!” (Catholic Answers). We are not orphans, but beloved children of the King! Life happens for us, not to us. Our Father is good and always providing even when it may feel like getting a splinter from a cross.
No one would be shocked that this week’s Gospel reminded me of Episode 7 of The Chosen. Nicodemus, whose name means “victory of the people”, sits down with Jesus face-to-face and gets to ask Him questions about what He has seen. Jesus gently responds and Nicodemus listens to each word from His lips with great curiosity. Speaking about the mystery of the wind and the Kingdom of God, Jesus emphasizes that faith is not about believing in what is seen or understood. Faith is deeper and more lasting than that.
This dialogue between these two men sitting across from one another led me to imagine myself sitting face-to-face with Jesus. When I journal, I enjoy writing to Jesus. Since this week marks the year anniversary when the world turned upside down (anyone start singing Hamilton?), I want to reflect on Jesus’ saving work in my life throughout the past year. Though I felt condemned as quarantine began, I feel saved today. I pray that you may connect with some of aspect of my experience. I also invite you to think about what you would say if you were sitting across the table from Jesus. He is here with you now. He wants to hear from you and He wants to speak, too.
I get to the roof and see Jesus turn around and smile. It's dark around us, but His face glows with the candlelight. He extends His arms and I hurry to be embraced by My Lord and My God. I'm excited to catch up.
Me: Jesus, thank you for always being here with me. I have so much to talk about. It has been quite a year!
Jesus: I love when you speak with me. Let’s have a seat.
Me: At the beginning of 2020, I thought the year was going to include hosting more gatherings and traveling a lot. I became so lost and confused when this wasn’t the case.
Jesus: Mm hm… there are many times where you think you know what is around the corner. It is okay to not know. I am God and you are not. My ways are above your ways. My surprises don’t always feel good, but they are good.
Me: When I chose “receive” as my word of the year for 2020, I was focused on being pursued. I had no idea how much you would teach me to truly receive whatever was placed before me. I was scared to go into lockdown. I was scared to not be able to leave the house to connect with others. I was scared of the unknown. Yet, my friend reminded me of my word of the year and encouraged me to trust that you were giving me something I needed to receive.
Jesus: Yes, I remember you almost moved in with your sister. I was so proud of you when you began to blindly trust in what I wanted to show you in those months at home alone. I have so much to give you still. All I ask is that you open up your hands to receive it. I can’t work with clinched fists. I can only pour into hearts and minds that have space for me to dwell. I want to always be your secure base. Your strong foundation. Your refuge.
Me: Jesus, thank you, for being so patient with me. Thank you for being so generous. You show up in the most mysterious ways– like a TV show of all things. I didn’t want to watch it because I figured it would be bad, and yet you insisted. Today, I truly can’t imagine life before The Chosen. You have come to life in a new way, Lord. You feel nearer than ever before. As I sat outside churches during lockdown, I missed you. I did not understand how you could ask us to give up the Eucharist for Lent. Yet, you connected me with the Body of Christ throughout the world by way of an international community of prayer warriors. You have worked through Jonathan Roumie to show us your face of kindness, gentleness, and sense of humor. A year after discovering the show, I’m still writing about it in my reflections. I’m still digging deeper into its rich script. I’m still diving into Scripture in a renewed way.
Jesus: You may not always experience my nearness in the same way, but I will always be with and within you. Circumstances can be confusing, but if you stay close to me, you will learn that I am always at work in all things.
Me: Lord, you are always at work. I’m so sorry whenever I doubt your goodness. I’m sorry for times when I grasp onto my own understanding instead of your wisdom.
Jesus: I know you better than you know yourself. You will doubt. Doubting is actually the beginning of faith. All I ask of you is to keep coming back to me. I never tire of you asking for forgiveness. My mercy is endless. I can help your unbelief. I love when you speak with me and depend on me.
Me: You are so good to me. The world can seem so dark, Lord. How do I choose you each day?
Jesus: Do you see this candle? This is the light that I want to shine through you. Don’t hide your story. Don’t hide your true self. I need you to shine your light for the world to see. As St. Francis said, “all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” The light does not depend on your own strength. When you are weak, my strength carries you. What time of day is it as we speak?
Jesus: Yes, it’s the dark of night so that you and I can have some peace and quiet. Not everyone knows me. There are so many who do not conform to my ways. I need you to shine your light. Follow me and you will have the light of eternal life.
Me: Lord, that’s a lot to ask. I will have to let go of a lot of attachments. I will have to find my identity in you alone. I have such little faith. Why do you want me?
Jesus: Oh, child. What makes you smile? What energizes your soul?
Me: I love writing. It brings order to the chaos in my mind and heart. I love music and the joy of dancing to a rhythmic beat. Sunshine, fresh air, and people who love me most gives me so much energy. I love when people share their stories with me and listen to what I have to share in response. I love to spend time with you, Jesus. Silent commutes this Lent have helped me make more time for you in my day. You truly have been speaking, Lord. I hunger for your words, your affirmation, and your peace.
Jesus: I thirst for you, my love. Do those things and you will encounter me. Look for me shining through others. I will introduce you to the people and communities you need when you need them. I will never leave you alone. Even in isolation throughout this pandemic, I have brought you people you never knew existed. Let your light shine, for I am the light that shines in the darkness. Darkness is not dark for me. I may not always reveal all of the details, but I will always reveal my Sacred Heart that burns with great love for you.
Me: Lord, thank you.
Jesus: I have come not to condemn you, but to save you. There is no greater love than to lay your life down for a friend. You are my friend. There is no depth too deep and no height too high for me to come after you. You matter to me.
Me: I am not worthy of that kind of love. I am a sinner who gets stuck in the darkness.
Jesus: I know you and I love you. You are mine.
Me: I don’t know how I could ever thank you for a love like that.
Jesus: Live in the light, my child. Choose joy.
Me: Lord, my heart was bursting with joy on Laudate Sunday as I sang your praises with the sunroof open and windows down driving along country roads. After a year of little social contact with others, I was driving from a gathering with my best friends to a reunion with extended family members. There were times this year when the darkness seemed to last forever and this Sunday was a day full of hope, full of joy, full of provision. Fill me with your joy, always.
Jesus: Ask and you shall receive. You shine so brightly. May nothing ever steal your joy.
Jesus smiles, chuckles, and gets up from the table so he can offer me a huge hug.
What were you feeling during this encounter?
What spoke to you?
What challenged you?
How can you live in the joy of the Lord in these last few weeks of Lent as we hold the promise of Easter deep in our hearts?
“In his passion to set right a disjointed universe, God broke open his own heart of love. The Father sent not simply a representative, spokesman, or plenipotentiary, but his own Son into the dysfunction of the world so that he might gather that world into the bliss of the divine life. God’s center – the love between the Father and the Son – is now offered as our center; God’s heart breaks open so as to include even the worst and most hopeless among us.” – Bishop Barron
“Eternal life – divine quality of new life in Christ as well as its duration. We receive this gift already on earth in the hope that we will possess it irrevocably in heaven…To reject the son of God is to reject the light of faith in preference to spiritual darkness, death, and disinheritance.” -- Ignatius Study Bible
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