4th Sunday in Lent (Lætare Sunday); Year B
Ephesians: 2: 4-10
But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ-it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.
This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.
This Sunday is another one of those Sundays when the Priests on Twitter get excited becuase they get to break out the Rose Vestments! This Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Lent, is also known as Lætare Sunday – meaning ‘Rejoycing Sunday’ (but a different kind of rejoycing from that during Advent). It is a more tempered rejoycing.
We’re now over half-way through Lent – we’ve passed the lenten hump and can begin to see the excitement of Easter on the horizon (which, this year, has a special resonance since we may be able to celebrate Easter Mass in person). We can begin to prepare for what is now so close to us.
This Sunday’s 2nd Reading reminds us what we are preparing for: When we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life in Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him. That is the mystery of Easter – that Christ who truly died on the Cross rose again 3 days later. Lætare Sunday, while another Sunday and another day to dedicate to God, is also a foretaste of Easter Sunday, the greatest feast for the Church.
Linking this back, then to our Lenten theme of the Sacraments – this Sunday can be akin to the Eucharist, which was instituted on Holy Thursday (the first day of the Easter Triduum). The Church teaches, and the very earliest Christians believed and understood, that Christ is truly and really present in the Eucharist. We recieve, under the appearance of bread, God. The Catechism describes the Eucharist as “…the source and summit of the Christian life“. That is real.
This gift to us, of His Real Self, if a wonderful demonstration of those traits Paul writes about in the 2nd half of this Sunday’s reading. That God can show us “…how infinitely rich he is in grace…” and that the grace the Eucharist provides us is “…a gift from God; not…anything that [we] have done…”. The gift of God himself in the Eucharist is very real and provides us very real grace on Earth.
But that, even that, the “source and summit” of our faith is itself, only a foretaste of what is over the horizon – the real reason for our rejoycing. That God’s real presence in the Eucharist is preparation for our presence with Him in Heaven. In the same way the Mass is us participating in the Heavenly Banquet – God gives us some of that banquet in the Mass. And in doing that, we begin to re-claim “…the good life as…He had meant us to live it”.
So, for immediate, liturgical, and hevenly reasons – we have many reasons to rejoyce for what is on the horizon. Lætare indeed!