"Rejoice Jerusalem and all who love her. Be joyful all who were in mourning."
Mid-Lent Sunday, or Laetare Sunday, from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, shows us that in our Lenten springtime we come to realise that because we rejoice in God’s love we are drawn into the same type of giving love that we see in him, writes Denis Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne.
Notice the words: "God loved the world so much that he gave." That is the big difference between God and us. God gives and forgives. We get and forget. Giving is a sign of sacrificial love.
The whole of Mass this Sunday speaks of the love of God, which is transforming. From the words of the prayer: "Oh God, who through your Word reconciled the human race to yourself in a wonderful way …".
We see in the words of Saint Paul that if we are in Christ everything is new because it is all God’s work. When Jesus came, God has led the human race that walked in darkness into the radiance of faith; from sorrow to joy, from burden to peace, from darkness to light.
Saint John Chrysostom says that in going to the cross Jesus submitted to be judged and because of this judged the prince of this world. Adam died justly because he sinned; Our Lord unjustly because he did not sin.
Our Lord could not be tormented into hating his murderers, but this only made him love and pray for them all the more. In this way the cross of Christ was his lifting up and glory and for us believers is the promise that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.
This particular passage of Saint John’s Gospel contrasts good and evil, light and darkness. In wrongdoing we hate the light and truth. In true repentance, the cause of our rejoicing on this Sunday, we come into the light living by light and its truth. This is the wonder of God coming to us, to bring us out of our own limitation, sorrow, doubt and failure, into the light and hope which comes from God alone.
"Oh God, you wanted us to love you because otherwise our salvation would not have been just, and we could not do so unless you made it possible. Therefore, Lord, you loved us first as your beloved apostle tells us and you were always the first to love those who love you. For our part we love you with the love you yourself have given us. Your love is your goodness and you are the supreme and ultimate goodness." (William of St Thierry)
Today the Church invites us to remember God’s love for the world and rejoice because of it. God loves each of us so much that he gives his only Son. We are invited also to say ‘yes’ to God’s love, to believe that he loves us unconditionally, then we can love God and enter into a love relationship with him so our faces will radiate with the joy of God’s love, sharing his love with those around about us.
It is the Lord who gives us life by his unfailing light. The rejoicing we have is because God’s love is really effective. It shows us that love is giving because God gives completely and invites us also to give and to be transformed.