“Laetare” is the singular imperative of “to rejoice,” and that was exactly what our parish priest urged us to do today. After all, the gift of continuing to be able to attend Mass in the midst of nation-wide diocesan closures is one we cannot be grateful enough for! Thank God for our little parish!

Laetare Sunday marks the passage of the midpoint of Lent, and reminds us to find joy in our suffering. Not just joy in between our suffering, or despite our suffering, but in our suffering. Without suffering we cannot repay any amount of the infinite sacrifice paid for our sins. Without suffering we cannot even begin to repay that debt – the debt of an innocent self-sacrifice. Without suffering we can never hope to attain the ultimate joy of the beatific vision. What a paradox – that you cannot find true joy without suffering. But that is the truth of the matter, and that is why today we are commanded to rejoice. Because we need to be oriented in such a way that we are grateful for suffering, and rejoicing when we have an opportunity to do so! I know, this does not come naturally to us. Least of all to me.

There have been so many times I have rejoiced to be given the opportunity to work because I needed a few extra dollars, and the very opportunity of doing hard work or physical labor nearly brought tears to my eyes because I wanted to earn that money that represented security and happiness and, in a way, freedom. That is the nearest personal experience I can fit to the idea, but this is so much more. It is security against damnation, it is the happiness of the sight of God, it is the freedom to bind yourself to God in his Holy of Holies. It is eternal. It is invaluable. It is everything. How much more should we weep for joy and gratitude to be given the opportunity to suffer for atonement of our sins?

I have seen many posts during this whole Covid-19 thing, posted by Catholics, saying “well I didn’t expect to suffer this much this Lent!” I know that this is tongue in cheek, and it is said with some humor and sarcasm, but what it is really saying is “I didn’t intend to offer up this many things for atonement this Lent,” or “this price is too high for me to be interested in voluntarily paying it (for my own sins).” How can we say or think such things? If anything, we should mean this whole-heartedly and with excitement and joy: “Friends, praise God! We did not know how to suffer enough this Lent, but God in his wisdom, mercy, and generosity, has given us an opportunity to offer something greater than we could have anticipated! Praise God!”

Let’s lean into it, hard, my friends! Not to exalt in the suffering of others, but to learn to truly love our sacrifice as Job did in the Bible. He did not select his sacrifices either, but with each one he made the conscious act of the will to fall to his knees glorifying God for all that befell him!

Laetare! Rejoice! For we still have half of Lent before us to more gratefully suffer for our countless offenses!

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