Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.

Be joyful, all who were in mourning;

Exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast. (Is 66:10:11)

Today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, is also known as Laetare Sunday.  It gets this name from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon used at Mass when there is no music; you will see it quoted above.  In Latin, the antiphon begins with the word “Laetare,” which, as you see above, translates into “Rejoice.”  As we quickly approach the end of Lent – next week is the Fifth Sunday of Lent and the next week is already Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord – we, who have been mourning our sins and striving to repent, are called to rejoice as today sets a joyful tone in anticipation of Easter.  Flowers adorn the altar, the music is more joyful and the celebrant is allowed to wear rose-colored vestments, just as he does on Gaudete Sunday in Advent.  The Collect, or Opening Prayer, at Mass today continues this joyful anticipation with these words:

O God, who through your Word reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way, grant, we pray that, with prompt devotion and eager faith, the Christian people may hasten toward the solemn celebrations to come.

And, the readings for this Sunday give us a sense of joyful anticipation as well.  In the first reading from the Book of Joshua, we hear our Lord assure Joshua: “Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”  This assurance is given to us, as well and so, just like the people of Joshua’s time, we can rejoice in this good news!

In the second reading from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, we hear that God “has reconciled us to himself through Christ”; another cause for rejoicing!  And finally, in the Gospel, we learn about God’s mercy and forgiveness in the powerful parable of the Prodigal Son.  Indeed, all three readings fill us with joy as they prepare us for the great celebration of Easter.  At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us the true manna from heaven which satisfies our deepest spiritual hunger.  And, through his death and Resurrection, Jesus has reconciled us to the Father.  Like the father in today’s Gospel account, God longs to embrace us and hold a feast in celebration of our return.  So,   let us rededicate ourselves to our Lenten practices so as to prepare to join in the Paschal mystery fully revealed during Holy Week and Easter!