Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 14, 2021 — Year B
Readings: 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23 / Ps 137 / Eph 2:4-10 / Jn 3:14-21
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
This, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, is also known as Laetare Sunday, from the first word of today’s antiphon: Laetare! which means Rejoice! Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom, gives us this special Sunday right in the middle of Lent. Lent tends to be a little bit somber: We’re fasting; we’re giving things up. Today, we’re called to take a break from that. It’s an opportunity to refocus, to reevaluate, to ask ourselves, “How are we doing?”
During Lent we can become overly focused on our shortcomings. We look at the goals we set out for ourselves at the start of the season. Sometimes, when we don’t meet them, we get down on ourselves. Today we are asked to be joyous and to, while reevaluating, remember the big picture.
This year, at least for me, has been a little darker than most years. It probably has something to do with the pandemic, plus we’ve had bad weather: It’s been raining a lot; it’s been cold. I myself welcome today, to look at my progress through this season.
Sometimes, during Lent, our focus turns inward, and we lose sight of where we’re going. Those of you with a missal have probably noticed that last week, this week, and next week, there are two sets of readings. That is because we celebrate the Scrutinies on these three weekends. The Scrutinies are special prayers that we offer for those who are preparing to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. Whenever we celebrate the Scrutinies, we use the Year A readings at that Mass, as we did at today’s 8:00 Mass.
There’s a common theme between the readings for the Scrutinies today and those for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which were used at this Mass. That common theme is Light. We heard today how the Light came into the world. At the 8:00 Mass, the gospel was the story of the man born blind, someone who had lived his entire life in darkness. Upon meeting Jesus, his eyes were opened. Imagine the joy of experiencing light for the first time.
We often use light in our liturgies: the candles, to remind us of the light of Christ. In a moment, an altar server will extinguish the candle here at the ambo. The candle symbolizes Christ in the Word of God, and it’s lit because we are in the Liturgy of the Word. After the Prayers of the Faithful, we transition into the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This candle will be extinguished, and the focus becomes the altar. The light of those candles reminds us of Jesus Christ, who will become present in the Blessed Sacrament.
We need to be mindful of our goal during Lent, which is to be more focused on the Light, to draw closer to Jesus and the Light that He brought into the world. As we draw closer to that Light, we should not forget the big picture. Saint Pope Paul VI, in one of his encyclicals, wrote: “Evangelizing is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity.” You may have heard it paraphrased like this: “The Church doesn’t have a mission; the Church is a mission.” Our mission, evangelization, is to bring the Light of Christ to the world.
So as we return home from this Mass, and as we refocus on our Lenten practices, my prayer for all of us is that we focus on the Light, and that we allow that Light to shine through us in our day-to-day lives as we move out into a world that, too often, is overcome by darkness.