“Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast” (Isaiah 66:10-11). These are the words of the Entrance Antiphon this Sunday. The Latin for Rejoice is Laetare, today is Laetare Sunday. It is a day when priests and deacons are given an option to replace their purple vestments with Rose coloured vestments to recognise that we are halfway through Lent. This gives us a glimpse of the joy awaiting us at Easter, just before we enter the sombre time of Passiontide. 1

Our first reading, which comes from the end of the 2nd Book of Chronicles, tells us of the rebellious people who defiled the Temple of the Lord. God sent prophets to warn them about their behaviours, who they ignored. Eventually the Lord lost patience with the people and allowed them to be conquered, the Temple was destroyed; and the surviving people led off to Babylon to a life of servitude. They remained there for seventy years until God prompted Cyrus, King of Persia, to rebuild a Temple in Jerusalem. This is a sign for us that God will always look to bring people back to Him, He never gives up on people.

This theme is continued in St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians; he reminds us that God loves us so much that although we were dead through our sins we have been brought to life with Christ and have been raised up with Christ to a place reserved for us in heaven. This is not something which we can earn or buy; this is a gift freely given by the grace of God to those who believe in Him. There is a beautiful little section at the end of St Paul’s letter, it says “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus…” Have you ever thought of yourself as God’s work of art? But not only that, there is a little gem at the end of that sentence, which tells us that through Jesus the original sins of Adam and Eve have been wiped away; by becoming Christians through our Baptism we can “live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.”

Our Gospel from John gives an account of one of the times Jesus foretold His Passion. There is , however, a distinct difference in style between John’s Gospel and the other three Evangelists. Matthew, Mark and Luke describe Jesus suffering at the hands of the chief priests and the elders and being killed by them. St John tells of the Glory of the Passion. “Jesus is lifted up, so that whoever believes may have eternal life in him.”

This lifting up is continued in the Resurrection and the Ascension.2 John in recalling the words of Jesus to Nicodemus, recalls the contrast between darkness and light; in a similar way to the contrast used at the beginning of John’s Gospel when he describes a “life that was the light of men; and light shines in the darkness, and darkness could not overpower it” (John 1:4-5). Today’s passage says that “though light has come into the world men have shown that they prefer darkness to light”. This season of Lent gives us all the opportunity to turn back towards the light. It is a good time to examine our behaviours and habits and to break any cycle which leads us to eternal ruin.

In my reflection last week, I suggested using the essence of the ten commandments to examine our consciences. All of us are sinners and we all need to find a way to be more like Jesus. Another way of looking at our behaviours is when we read or listen to the News. For example, many employers will be looking at themselves following the news earlier this week about a culture of bullying in a major Company in the North-west of England.3 But it should not only be employers; all of us need to examine how we treat other people. I had reason to do this myself earlier in the week, when I fired off an email to someone who I mistakenly thought had made an error which affected me. They soon pointed out my error to me and I had to hastily send back an apology, acknowledging that I had been wrong. As I have said previously, I can get angry very quickly, this time I reacted without finding out the facts first; hopefully I will learn from this and check the facts first if anything similar happens again.

How do we treat the people we meet at work? How do we treat the people we interact with at Church? How do we treat the people we live with? Do we love them as we love ourselves? Do we have favourites? Are there people we avoid? If we do, why do we avoid them?

When we shine the light on our behaviours, habits and choices how do we feel? What are we prompted to do?

Lent gives us all the opportunity to look at ourselves and really examine ourselves, to try to see ourselves as Jesus sees us. He sees us as we really are, and he still loves us in our sinfulness; our brokenness and in our darkest times. Jesus never stops loving us. Jesus is love and He wants His love to shine on us and through us and to be shared with everyone we meet. We are not just to share it with the people we like, we are to share it with everyone, including the people we might not be too fond of. Jesus wants us to step out of the darkness into the light and then to remain in the light. By doing this we will be allowing the light of Jesus to shine on God’s works of art, us, so that everyone can appreciate the full beauty of God’s creation.

This Sunday in the UK we celebrate Mothering Sunday. This was originally a day when apprentices or those ‘in service’ would return to their Mother Church during Lent; taking a small gift like hand picked flowers to their mother. Today we thank God for our Mother, we pray for all Mothers; may they receive God’s blessing for all that they do and may we be always grateful for our mother. But we also remember the origin of this day; Our Mother Church. Some of us are far away from our Mother Church; the Church we grew up in, but we are grateful that in our one Holy and Apostolic Church we can find a home in the Church Community where we live. Mary, Queen of Mothers, Pray for us. Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All Mothers in our Parishes, especially those who cannot be with their children at this time.
  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • Elias de Sousa and his family as Elias joins the Christian family through Baptism this weekend at St Bede’s.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign, that we all have the strength to overcome any physical ailments.
  • For those who have been putting off going to Reconciliation, that they will have the courage to go and receive God’s forgiveness.
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those taking part in the online Alpha course, that they will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • For the success of the RCIA course next Wednesday, that all those attending will gain an understanding and develop a love for the Sacraments of the Church.
  • For Pope Francis, as he celebrates the eighth anniversary of his election as Pope.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD I have now walked over 300,000 steps since Ash Wednesday and with your help I have raised just under £1500 pounds for Cafod.

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 13th March 2021.

Some links to help us with Lent this week.

Sunday – POPE FRANCIS LAETARE SUNDAY 2018: REJOICE BECAUSE GOD IS WITH US! – Catholics Striving for Holiness

Monday – TOP 25 QUOTES BY POPE JOHN XXIII (of 57) | A-Z Quotes

Tuesday – The Liberating Power of Fasting : Ancient Practice for a Catholic Lent (catholicexchange.com)

Wednesday – TOP 25 QUOTES BY SAINT PATRICK | A-Z Quotes

Thursday – Cyril of Jerusalem Quotes (Author of On the Christian Sacraments) (goodreads.com)

Friday – Quotes – Year of St. Joseph

Saturday – Saints quotes on the Blessed Virgin Mary (whitelilyoftrinity.com)

1 Michael R Heinlein, Laetare Sunday, available from Laetare Sunday | Simply Catholic accessed 11th March 2021.

2 Robert Draper, Breaking the Word Sundays, (Pastoral Review Vol 17 Issue 1, Twickenham, 2021)82.

3 Sellafield nuclear site a ‘toxic mix of bullying and harassment’ – BBC News accessed 12th March 2021