Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Traditionally this has a very special name. It is called Laetare Sunday which means “Sunday to rejoice”.
We are rejoicing not that Lent is half over but rather what happens at the end of Lent. We rejoice that we get to celebrate Easter Sunday. We rejoice that our God conquers death. We rejoice that our God gives us eternal life. We rejoice in the Resurrection.
However there is no rejoicing in the Resurrection without also deeply contemplating with grateful hearts what happened on Good Friday. Rejoicing on Easter Sunday does not mean we skip the Cross and suffering. In fact, Good Friday is at the heart of our Easter rejoicing. Good Friday shows us the heart our God. That is why we rejoice. This is the cause of our celebration. Our God amazingly loves us so much that He gave His life for us. In a very painful manner, our God suffered for us to pay the price for our sins. Our original human parents forever changed our relationship with God. They forfeited our state of original grace. Through their act of disobedience (whatever it was – represented by biting into an apple) our first human parents severely damaged our relationship with God. It is Jesus Christ offering Himself for our sins on the Cross that grants us reparation for our sins. It is Jesus Christ who restores us to a state of forgiveness and allows us again to have full communion with God.
This is the cause of our rejoicing. Think about your life for a moment? What causes you to get excited? What causes you to be filled with joy? What causes you to rejoice? Would you be happy about someone sending you a birthday card? Would you be excited about your birthday cake? Would you be excited to have dinner at your favorite restaurant? Would you be excited to go on a trip or a vacation? I think most of us would be daydreaming about the vacation that we have not been able to take in a long time. Do we get excited to see people who love us? Do we get excited to see people that we love and hold dear?
What about our excitement for God? How much do we contemplate God‘s love for us? Do we take time to prayerfully reflect on God‘s great love for us? Do we think about Good Friday? Do we think about what our God did for us? Do you think about what the loving act of the Cross delivers to us?
St Paul tells us that we are to be ambassadors for Christ. This means that we are fully attuned to the One we represent. It means that we know, appreciate and rejoice in God‘s love and forgiveness and then communicate that message to others.
If anyone you know needs help connecting to God‘s love one of the most powerful ways to do that is to remind them of the story we hear in today’s gospel. The story of the prodigal son. God is like the father in that story. This is the image of God the Father that Jesus Himself presents to us. At any given moment we are all like that prodigal son. We forfeit the gift of God‘s relationship for some thing of this world that has less value. And when we come to our senses and truly turned back to God, we hear of God‘s response in that story presented by Jesus. The father in that story was on the lookout for the son’s return. The father in that story went running to greet his son and then embraced him. That is our God according to Jesus Christ. That is the God Who celebrates our return. That is the God Who forgives us. That is the God who loves us. And that is why we rejoice!
A reading from the Book of Joshua
The LORD said to Joshua,
“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”
While the Israelites were encamped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho,
they celebrated the Passover
on the evening of the fourteenth of the month.
On the day after the Passover,
they ate of the produce of the land
in the form of unleavened cakes and parched grain.
On that same day after the Passover,
on which they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased.
No longer was there manna for the Israelites,
who that year ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.
Ps 34: 2-3, 4-5, 6-7
℟. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
℟. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
℟. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
℟. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
2 Cor 5:17-21
God reconciled us to himself through Christ.
A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
Brothers and sisters:
Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God,
who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting their trespasses against them
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Acclamation before the Gospel
I will get up and go to my Father and I shall say to him:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
Your brother was dead and has come to life again.
✠ A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable:
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”
At the end of the Gospel, the Deacon, or the Priest, acclaims:
The Gospel of the Lord.