The cruelties of COVID-19 stretch out now under the brightness of spring’s first blue skies. Realities and restrictions are depriving us of complacency. Fear and anxiety are driving waves of hoarding; skepticism and denial are preventing others from even the most simple precautions. Life has been upended, routines have been broken, and new patterns are emerging. But this is Laetare Sunday, and there is a sense of summons to becoming something more than what we were before. There is the chance to review and re-examine what life has given us: to prioritize what really matters, to see the world and our lives from a deeper, fuller perspective.
Everything once taken for granted has won new significance. For decades, we were treated to stores overflowing with goods, an abundance of choices about clothing, food, health care and education. We rested comfortably, and now we are invited to consider what really matters, who really matters, and how to negotiate this crisis as individuals and as a community.
Companionship has taken on a whole new meaning, and life a new purpose. At the core of Laetare Sunday are two elements: recognition of the presence of God and the grace of commitment. Each of them speak to this present moment with eloquence and each offers a chance to grow. There is a real temptation to despair under the mounting reports of hospitalizations and fatalities. It would be easy to forget that even here, and now, there is a faithful God walking with us, weeping with us, staying with us. And among us, there are persons providing comfort and leadership, fortitude and direction. There are helpers and healers and heroes. Laetare Sunday is reminder that grace abounds even in suffering, and if we look carefully, we will see those moments intertwined with the painful realities of this new world.
Laetare Sunday is about seeing things more clearly, and shifting our perspective to embrace the reality before us without fear. It is about moving from darkness into the light. Confusion, misunderstanding, judgment and mistakes are part of the human experience on every level, but that only means that there is a chance to walk in the light .
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
Ephesians 5: 8-13
The Gospel from John 9 carries it all a step further. It is a healing story, full of overtones about the Pharisses’ misunderstandings about Jesus. Jesus heals a blind man, enables him to see, to step into the light. Jesus challenges the Pharisees to come further, to go beyond where they were, to become better people.
It is the same invitation to us. Jesus invites us to come into the light, to be the light for one another, to companion one another even in the most challenging of times.
The choice is ours.