Catholics around the world celebrated Laetare Sunday on March 10. The fourth or middle Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday offers an opportunity to look where you are on your Lenten journey while rejoicing in the gift of life and the gifts of healing, vision and joy given to the world by Jesus Christ.
At St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Lynchburg, Msgr. Michael McCarron shared the meaning of Laetare Sunday. Laetare means rejoice in Latin.
The first words of Scripture that open Mass on Laetare Sunday are, "Rejoice, Jerusalem!" These words are taken from Isaiah 66:10-11.
The priest's traditional purple vestments signify penance during Lent. On Laetare Sunday, the vestments are exchanged for rose-colored vestments, which signify joy.
The readings on Sunday were about vision and coming out of darkness into light, very much in keeping with the journey of Lent, where we leave behind the darkness of sin and open our eyes to the light of Christ.
The Gospel reading from John 9:1-41 tells the story of a man who was blind from birth. Jesus made mud from clay and his saliva and smeared the clay on the man's eyes, sending him to wash.
When the man washed his eyes, he was suddenly able to see. In addition to physical sight, the man was given the spiritual sight to see that Jesus was the son of God.
Msgr. Michael's homily focused on how God touches our eyes, allowing us to see differently, saying, "Real vision comes from the heart. Those who see with their heart are destined for joy."
Relating the Gospel to real life is something Msgr. Michael does very well. His homilies always address ways in our own lives that we can live the Gospel.
Msgr. Michael shares how God speaks to our hearts with the younger children at St. Thomas More each week. Before they leave for the Children's Liturgy of the Word, Msgr. Michael reminds the children to listen not only with their ears, but also with their hearts.
Teens can sometimes have difficulty relating the words of God to their own lives. Parents often try to find ways to make teens understand that God's words have meaning for people of all ages.
Msgr. Michael made the connection in his homily on Sunday, talking about the ways teens can reach out to others at school, receiving joy from doing what's good and right and turning away from the mixed messages of how to be happy sent by TV and the media.
Telling teens to listen to those who love them the best to find the vision for their own lives, Msgr. Michael reminded teens that, like their own parents, God loves us the best and wants us to find joy by doing what's right.
Like the blind man who was once blind but can now see, Christians can see differently when their eyes and hearts are open to the love of God.
As we continue on our Lenten journey on the way to the joy of Easter, Laetare Sunday reminds us all of the source of all joy in our lives, the love of God.