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Sunday, fourth week of Lent

March 18, 2012


Blessed Laetare Sunday!

You may remember “Gaudete Sunday” from Advent.
Well, “Laetare” means “rejoice” too, and we can trade our Lenten violet
for the rose-color of joy today.
We rejoice because we’re more than halfway through our time of spiritual preparation for Easter!

The rose color actually originated with the use of roses on this day.
One source claims that members of the Early Church exchanged roses on this day
as a sign of mingled sorrow and joy (soft petals and prickly thorns).

What is more certain is that rose vestments are used
for the ceremony of the papal blessing of the golden rose on the fourth Sunday of Lent
(which was referred to as an ancient custom in the 12th century).
This rose, which is fragranced with incense and set with rubies (it was once tinted red),
is a symbol of Christ, the Flower that sprang from the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1).
The fragrance signifies the sweet aroma of Christ,
which should be diffused throughout the whole world by His followers
(see II Corinthians 2:14-15).
The color and thorns remind us of His Passion.

Why is your apparel red, and your garments like those of the winepresser?
-Isaiah 63:2.

Originally the blessed rose was given to a prince who was present
or was sent to a monarch who had done something special for the Church.
Now it’s reused until a worthy recipient is chosen (places of devotion–
the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
received one in 2008).

The prayer that’s used to bless the rose is lovely:
‘O God! by whose word and power all things were created,
and by whose will they are all governed!
O You who are the joy and gladness of all Your faithful people!
we beseech Your divine Majesty,
that You vouchsafe to bless and sanctify this rose,
so lovely in its beauty and fragrance.
We are to bear it, this day, in our hands, as a symbol of spiritual joy;
that thus the people that is devoted to Your service,
being set free from the captivity of Babylon
by the grace of Your only-begotten Son
who is the glory and the joy of Israel,
may show forth, with a sincere heart,
the joys of that Jerusalem, which is above, and is our mother.
And whereas Your Church, seeing this symbol,
exults with joy for the glory of Your Name;
do You, O Lord! give Her true and perfect happiness.
Accept Her devotion, forgive us our sins, increase our faith;
heal us by Your word, protect us by Your mercy;
remove all obstacles; grant us all blessings;
that thus this same, Your Church,
may offer unto You the fruit of good works;
and walking in the odour of the fragrance of that Flower,
which sprang from the root of Jesse,
and is called the Flower of the field, and the Lily of the valley,
may She deserve to enjoy an endless joy
in the bosom of heavenly glory, in the society of all the saints,
together with that divine Flower, who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ages of ages. Amen.’

Today is also known as “Mothering Sunday,” since today’s antiphon begins “Rejoice, Jerusalem!”, and the Church (represented by Jerusalem) is our Mother.
This became a day to honor mothers, giving them flowers (roses?!) and a cake
and asking for their blessing–the original, Christian, Mother’s Day.

Our season is starting to shift.
Up to this point, we’ve heard almost exclusively from the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew.
Today we move to St. John’s Gospel, and stay there for the rest of the season,
with only 2 exceptions (Palm Sunday and Wednesday of Holy Week).
St. John’s Gospel is markedly different from the other three
(collectively referred to as the synoptic Gospels),
both in style and in content.
His main purpose in writing is stated at the end of his book:

That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that believing you may have life in His name
-John 20:31

As we approach the mystery of Jesus’ Passion and death,
we need to be very clear about who He is–the Son of God–
in order to understand the meaning underlying Jesus’ words and actions,
and the significance they have for our own lives.
We turn to St. John, that he might teach us.

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.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 (Judah was exiled for her sins, then God let the exiles go home)
Psalm 137 “Let my tongue be silenced, if ever I forget you!”
Ephesians 2:4-10 (our salvation is a free gift from God)
+John 3:14-21 (Jesus came to save us; we condemn ourselves)

Let him who would glory,
glory in the Lord

-II Corinthians 10:17

I cannot glory in myself.
I’ve only cause for shame.
I seek myself, evade my God
besmirch His holy Name.

It was His mercy sought me out
(and seeks me still)
deep in the pit I’d dug myself
(with my free will).

The good I do I cannot claim.
He planned it all,
prepared the way,
gave me the privilege
of joining in.

But this my hope, my confidence:
God won’t give up on me.
He took on torture, death for me
when I was still His enemy.
He came to save,
not to condemn.

It’s in His goodness that I trust
–not mine!

Though I should fall a thousand times
(I cannot trust myself!)
I set my sight on Him aloft
–just like the snake–
(whoever looks shall live!).
His mercy gazes back at me.
His healing streams flow from the tree.
He will not fail.

I need not fear on judgment day.
I’m staying in His light.
Because my confidence, you see,
is all in Him and not in me!

What happens when you trust in yourself (or in anyone or anything other than God)?
Who’s “good enough” to pass God’s searching judgment, based on their own merits?
Why is pride so deadly?

An Act of Hope and Confidence in God

My God, I believe most firmly that Thou watchest over all who hope in Thee,
and that we can want for nothing when we rely upon Thee in all things;
therefore I am resolved for the future to have no anxieties,
and to cast all my cares upon Thee.

People may deprive me of worldly goods and of honors;
sickness may take from me my strength and the means of serving Thee
I may even lose Thy grace by sin;
but my trust shall never leave me.
I will preserve it to the last moment of my life,
and the powers of hell shall seek in vain to wrestle it from me.

Let others seek happiness in their wealth, in their talents;
let them trust to the purity of their lives, the severity of their mortifications,
to the number of their good works, the fervor of their prayers;
as for me, O my God, in my very confidence lies all my hope.
“For Thou, O Lord, singularly has settled me in hope.”
(Psalm 4:10, Douay-Rheims; Psalm 4:8, modern)
This confidence can never be in vain.
“No one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded.”
(Ecclesiasticus 2:11, Douay-Rheims; Sirach 2:10, modern)

I am assured, therefore, of my eternal happiness,
for I firmly hope for it, and all my hope is in Thee.
“In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; let me never be confounded.”
(Psalm 30:2, Douay-Rheims; Psalm 31:2, modern)

I know, alas! I know but too well that I am frail and changeable;
I know the power of temptation against the strongest virtue.
I have seen stars fall from heaven, and pillars of firmament totter;
but these things alarm me not.
While I hope in Thee I am sheltered from all misfortune,
and I am sure that my trust shall endure,
for I rely upon Thee to sustain this unfailing hope.

Finally, I know that my confidence cannot exceed Thy bounty,
and that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from Thee.
Therefore I hope that Thou wilt sustain me against my evil inclinations;
that Thou wilt protect me against the most furious assaults of the evil one,
and that Thou wilt cause my weakness to triumph over my most powerful enemies.
I hope that Thou wilt never cease to love me, and that I shall love Thee unceasingly.
“In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded.”
-Saint Claude De La Colombiere


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