This weekend, the Church summons her children to “rejoice,” whence the Latin name given to the Fourth Sunday of Lent: Laetare Sunday. To communicate this reprieve from penance, the priest may wear Rose colored vestments. Typically the Sundays of Lent are not days of penance. Thus, the appeal to “rejoice” is necessary for us who find life difficult at present. So how do we rejoice? We have to surrender ourselves completely into the arms of God. In the words of the great 18th century, French theologian, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, “we can only experience true happiness when we abandon ourselves to Divine Providence.”
“Well, easier said than done, Padre. My daughter is going through a divorce; she has four kids to support, two jobs, and my soon-to-be ex-son-in-law is a bum.” Rejoice, abandon your concerns into the hands of Providence. God loves your daughter and will provide for her needs.
“I just lost my job. My mortgage is due at the end of the month. How am I going to provide shelter for my children and groceries for the pantry?” Rejoice, abandon your concerns into the hands of Providence. God loves you and will provide for your needs.
“My aunt is elderly, lives alone and could use assistance as she suffers from cardiovascular disease, weak legs and signs of dementia. But she refuses to have a ‘stranger’ come into her home and take care of her?” Rejoice, abandon your concerns into the hands of Providence. God loves your aunt and will provide for his needs.
Many years ago, Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a prayer which has inspired 12-step programs around the world: “God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference…” Many of us have seen these words on coffee-mugs, samplers and calendars; however, there is more to Niebuhr’s prayer: “…living one day at a time: accepting hardship as a pathway to peace: taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.”History shows us that Mary embodied these words: as we imagine Our Lady at the foot of the Cross, hurting, yet steadfast, grieving yet hopeful, aware of her complete God-dependency, let us call on our Blessed Mother — that through her prayers, our loved ones who may hinder us from responding to the appeal of Laetare this year, may recognize that we can only do so much, that it is human to have problems and that no problem is greater than our God’s love. Is it possible to experience joy in the midst of trials? The answer is ‘yes’ which makes this a paradox, a seemingly contradictory statement which finds its truth in Christ. Let us pray for the courage to surrender our concerns at the foot of the Cross, as did Mary, so that we might experience the joy which only Jesus can give.
Whatever it is that preventing us from “rejoicing,” as we take another lap around the racetrack of life, let us surrender our every anxiety, concern, fear and disappointment into the hands of Providence. God loves us and he will provide for our needs. Laetare! “For God so loved the world, that he sent us his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life.” ( Jn 3:16) Laetare! “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Laetare! Rejoice!
“Is it possible to experience joy in the midst of trials?
The answer is ‘yes,’ which makes this a paradox, which finds its truth in Christ.”