This is the Fourth Sunday of the Lenten season and is know as Laetare Sunday. This is because the entrance antiphon from Isaiah reads:
Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.
Be joyful, all who were in mourning;
exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.
Laetare is the first word — meaning “rejoice” — in the Latin text. On Laetare Sunday the Church expresses hope and joy in the midst of our Lenten fasts and penances. The priest can wear pink or rose vestments. This change in colour indicates a glimpse of the joy that awaits us at Easter, just before we enter into the sombre days of Passiontide. As one writer put it, Laetare Sunday is the Church’s way of giving us a “shot in the arm” as we approach the darkness and horror of the days through Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It’s an opportunity to savour and keep in the back of our minds what awaits us on Easter Sunday — the reality. I know that for many of us we have been struggling with our Lenten prayer and penance. If this is true of you don’t feel guilty just rejoice and begin again tomorrow.
This Sunday is also kept as Mothering Sunday. In times past it was considered important for people to return to their home or ‘mother’ church once a year. So each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit their ‘mother’ church – the main church or cathedral of the area.
Inevitably the return to the ‘mother’ church became an occasion for family reunions when children who were working away returned home. It was quite common in those days for children to leave home for work once they were ten years old. Most historians think that it was the return to the ‘Mother’ church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants or as apprentices, being given the day off to visit their mother and family. We pray today for all mothers. We give thanks for their self sacrifice and love and we ask that those who struggle may be strengthen through the prayers of Mary our Mother and the Mother of the Lord.
Also this Sunday at the evening Mass we are having the second Scrutiny as part of a preparation for those who are to be baptised. The scrutinies are solemnly celebrated on the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent and are reinforced by an exorcism. They are rites for self-searching and repentance and have, above all, a spiritual purpose.
The scrutinies are meant to uncover, and then heal, all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of those who are to be baptised at Easter, to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. The scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation and to give them strength in Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. These rites therefore should complete the conversion of the elect and deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ and to carry out their decision to love God above all. When we have the second scrutiny we use the gospel for year A, the story of the man born blind. Here is the prayer that is said over those who are to be baptised at Easter. This prayer we can apply to ourselves as well.
you are the true light that enlightens the world.
Through your Spirit of truth
free those who are enslaved by the father of lies.
Stir up the desire for good in these elect, whom you have chosen for your sacraments.
Let them rejoice in your light, that they may see,
and, like the man born blind whose sight you restored,
let them prove to be staunch and fearless witnesses to the faith,
for you are Lord for ever and ever.
This a great prayer that we can apply to ourselves as well.