Happy Laetare Sunday! The fourth Sunday of Lent is sometimes called “Laetare” Sunday. “Laetare” means “Rejoice” in Latin and “Joy” is the theme of today’s liturgy. Traditionally, the liturgical decorations and the priest’s vestment will be changed to a rose or a light-violet color to highlight the fact that Easter is drawing near. We observe our Lenten sacrifices of prayers, fasting and almsgiving, but is also a time for us to rejoice and celebrate even as we do penance.

Throughout Lent we hear Old Testament readings recount the history of Israel to us. On the first Sunday of Lent we heard God’s covenant to Noah. Then on the second Sunday we heard the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. On the third Sunday we heard the story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God and promulgating those commandments to the people. This week we recall the time of the Israelites’ rebellion and infidelity to God, and subsequent exile in Babylon. Despite their rebellion, God sent his prophets to teach, preach and to ask the people to repent for their sins.

Today’s Gospel reading recounts the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus acknowledged Jesus as someone who had come from God and he seemed to want to be a follower of Jesus. In their conversation, Jesus referred to the incident in the Old Testament when the Israelites grumbled against the Lord during their sojourn in the desert. God sent venomous serpents to punish them. The Israelites repented and asked Moses to pray for them. The Lord heard Moses’ prayer and instructed him to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. By looking up to the bronze serpent, all those who had been bitten by a serpent were cured. Similarly, being hung on the cross, Jesus introduces us to the salvation that would be accomplished through His death and Resurrection.

God brought them salvation by giving up His Only Begotten Son: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

In addition, if you attend Mass that includes the Scrutiny for the Catechumens, you will hear the story of Jesus healing a man blind from birth. By this story, God invites us to receive the Light of Christ and allow it to shine in our lives. Indeed, Jesus comes to the world to heal our spiritual blindness so that we can recognize him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

On this “Rejoicing” Sunday, let us reflect upon our blessings. Let us think of what brings us joy in life and thank God for those things. Let us rejoice because the Lord and the Church give us a season for purification, renewal, and conversion. It is a time to seek the Lord who always searches for us.

“May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’” (Psalm 40:16). Rejoice!

Blessings and peace,

Fr. Thanh-Tai

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