This weekend in the middle of the Lenten season we celebrate Laetare Sunday. Our liturgy invites us to rejoice even as we gather in the midst of a time of self-denial, penance, and conversion. Our observances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are not meant to make us morose or sorrowful, but rather they purify us from within and instill in us renewed hope for the coming celebration of Easter. As Christians, we do not abandon joy, for the foundation of our faith is the resurrection of Christ—the one who reigns forever has initiated us into his body through his dying and rising so that we might become more like him. Even in Lent our worship resounds with joy because God’s promises have already been fulfilled in the gift of his Son. Every Sunday for us is a “little Easter.” This weekend’s Gospel affirms our cause for joy as John recalls God’s unbounded compassion and immeasurable mercy for his people. God sends Christ into this world out of love so that we may experience redemption that leads to eternal life. Our God does not create in order to condemn us, but rather he creates to bring us to himself through his Son. Once lifted high on the cross to die, Jesus’ cross becomes the instrument of his glorification, the saving sign by which we exalt his name above all others. May we allow Jesus to guide us along the way of the cross this Lent to the joys of his resurrection.
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
Come, Christians, follow where the Master trod, our King victorious, Christ the Son of God.
Led on their way by this triumphant sign, the hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.
O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree, your death has brought us life eternally.
So shall our song of triumph ever be: Praise to the Crucified for victory!
Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore his sacred name.