Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Why is the liturgy of Laetare Sunday exhorting the inhabitants of Jerusalem to rejoice? Why not: “Rejoice, O Members of the Church?” In reality, that is precisely what is at the heart of today’s liturgy. Remember that a fundamental liturgical principle is that Old Testament texts are to be understood in a New Testament sense. The Church is the New People of God. We, who are the members of Christ’s Body, are the New Jerusalem!

By invoking the cry of Isaiah to the Israelites in the Introit, the Church is crying out: “Catholics! Rejoice! Come together all you who love the Church, rejoice with her, you who have been in sorrow. Be filled with the consolation that comes from the breasts of the Mystical Body of Christ.”

Laetare Sunday gives us a break from the penitential mode of Lent. The symbolism of the rose vestments means a middle ground between the somber violet and the jubilant white. Easter is in sight. Soon, we too will rise with Jesus from the death of sin to the eternal life of the Resurrection! We have been baptism into Christ Jesus, into His Mystical Body, which is the Church. Moreover, we are to be nourished in today’s Eucharistic Sacrifice with the Bread of Life. A further cause of our rejoicing, we have the holy Sacrament of Penance. Bishop Austin Vaughan, the deceased Auxiliary Bishop of New York called Confession, a “continuing Baptism.” We rejoice in the Church, in our Baptism, in the Holy Eucharist and in the continuing mercy of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Penance.

In the Collect of the Mass, we pray: “Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who are justly afflicted for our deeds (our sins), may be relieved by the consolation of Thy grace.”

The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Galatians tells us of our deliverance from our sorry state of sin through the Sacraments of Baptism or through the Sacrament of Penance. The two sons of Abraham symbolize the two Testaments. Ishmael, the son of Agar, represents the Israelites as slaves to the Law of Moses. Isaac, the son of Sarah, represents the Gentiles whose faith makes them heirs of the promises of Christ.

This Sunday’s Gospel brings us even richer symbolisms. The miraculous multiplication of the loves and fishes is a sign of the Eucharist. Catholic life revolves around the Blessed Eucharist as Sacrifice and Sacrament. The Eucharist is the, “source and the summit of all of the sacraments.”

Finally, today’s magnificent liturgy is tied together in the Post Communion Prayer: “We are constantly filled with Thy holy mysteries, O merciful God. Grant, we beseech Thee, that we may celebrate them with sincere homage and always receive them with steady faith.”

Truly, the readings for Laetare Sunday are Lenten gems for our meditation.

Father Richard J. Rego


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