Breaking out for Jesus
This Sunday is ‘Laetare Sunday’, the Sunday in which the entrance antiphon of the Mass begins with the word ‘laetare’. ‘Laetare’ means ‘rejoice’. Midway through our Lenten journey towards Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, the Church invites us to rejoice He’s going to win the victory. Soon! But Christian joy is different than normal joy.
Normal joy goes away, because the things that cause it – like football championships and snowy days – go away. But Christian joy is based on something that never goes away: friendship with Jesus Christ. Loving Jesus and being loved by Him – that’s friendship! And it doesn’t change with the seasons. He is always faithful. This explains why Christians can sing hymns even in the most trying of circumstances and situations.
That’s the kind of joy the Church invites us to renew today. And we do need to renew it. For most of us, if we’re honest, have to admit that we don’t always feel that joy. Why not? What’s the obstacle? We have faith, that’s why we’re here. We believe Jesus loves us. So why don’t we experience Christian joy more deeply, more constantly? The obstacle to Christian joy is routine. It’s falling into routine in our relationship with God. That’s what happened to the younger son in the Gospel parable this week. He went looking for joy in all the wrong places, because he got tired of living with his dad. He became self-centred, and that made him bored. That’s exactly what happens to us when we go looking for happiness in sinful places and deeds, in disobedience to God’s loving will.
The older son also lost sight of his father’s goodness. He let the routine of life embitter his heart. He forgot that his father was actually giving him everything. Sometimes we do the same thing: on the outside we are good Catholics, but on the inside, we are angry and critical, because we’re just going through the motions. We have let the fire go out of our friendship with Jesus, the fire and enthusiasm of our faith in Him.
Routine in our relationship with God is the obstacle to our experiencing Christian joy. Lent is all about breaking out of the routine in our relationship with Christ Jesus. Today, let’s ask God to give us the grace we need to break out of our routines, and to help others who may not be here today do the same.
One easy way to do something is to go out of our way for someone every day this coming week. We can go out of our way to help someone in little things – like giving up the better parking space or taking time to actually find information for someone instead of just pointing them to the website. We can also go out of our way to help someone in bigger things, like taking the family to visit a sick relative in the hospital or the nursing home or inviting the new family at church or school round to your place to make them welcome. Or volunteering your most precious resource – time… to help one of our local support groups.
When we go out of our way, out of our routine, for someone, we show them some of God’s goodness, the goodness we have and do receive. And through those efforts, God will be able to reach out to the many prodigal sons and daughters who are afraid to come home.
And if God is working so closely and powerfully through us, it will also help renew our own friendship with Jesus, who is, and is to be, our joy, our Laetare!
Fr David Jones, OLW