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A reflection by Bishop John Sherrington for Laetare Sunday

We can rejoice on this Laetare Sunday because of God’s gift and promise of new life which continues into eternity. New life begins with our baptism and finds its fulfilment in the gift of eternal life through God’s love poured out for us on the cross. This gift is given to us through his grace. This Sunday offers the opportunity to deepen the appreciation of the multitude of gifts given to us by our compassionate and merciful Father in the beauty of creation, in the diversity of people, in the mystery of relationships but most of all, in the gift of life with Christ. As we heard in the second reading, 'We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it' (Eph. 2:10).

As the weeks of Lent pass, we may feel more keenly the cost of our discipleship in terms of fasting, the commitment to prayer and generous acts of alms giving. Through these actions, Jesus continues to speak into our hearts where there echoes the Lenten refrain, 'O that today you would listen to his voice, harden not your hearts' (Ps. 95:8). The Holy Spirit continues to inspire, nudge, prod, pierce and knock at the door of our heart, even when it remains closed and locked. Let us open our hearts to the Holy Spirit so that we may turn away from sin and towards the light of Christ!

We are now about half-way through our Lenten journey and over the next weeks begin to climb with Jesus towards the Mountain of Calvary. There we will look upon him crucified and see the pain and suffering of the Holy Face of Jesus. His face shows the pain carried by many people since the first lockdown, almost a year ago, because of sickness and the death of loved ones, often mothers. On this Mothering Sunday many family members will carry deep grief for the mothers who have died during the pandemic. May Our Lady who looked upon that Holy Face pray for them.

As we look up at Jesus on the cross, we are consoled by the promise revealed in today’s gospel, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him' (John 3: 14-15). On the cross we not only see the Holy Face who suffers but also the Holy Face in glory because the cross is a sign of victory over evil, suffering, and death: 'God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life' (John 3: 16).

Let us enter into this mystery by praying frequently the opening words of the Stations of the Cross:
‘We adore you O Christ and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world’.

Photo: Bishop John Sherrington