As we celebrate this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we are now closer to Easter than we are to Ash Wednesday. This is one of the reasons that the Church invites us to rejoice on this day. We call this Laetare Sunday, getting its name from the first word in Latin of the Entrance Antiphon for Mass: “Rejoice (Laetare), Jerusalem!” (Is 66:10) We visibly express this joy with the rose vestments that clergy have the option of wearing this Sunday.
The notion of rejoicing does not strike us as very Lenten. Lent feels more like a time to be subdued, to be more sober, to focus more on sacrifice than celebration. But let us recall the words from St. Paul: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Phil 4:4) Yes, even in Lent! As Christians, we should always be joyful because of the victory that Christ has already won in His Resurrection, that victory which He shares with us through our Baptism. However, during this season of repentance, we spend time looking at our lives, noticing where we are in need of conversion. Seeing those weaknesses and faults, we can get pretty down on ourselves, and our first thought is not to rejoice, but rather to be discouraged about ourselves.
This leads me to the challenge I would like to offer for this week:
Challenge: Fast from negative self-talk
Fruit: Fostering a Christian spirit of joy
It strikes me how powerful negative self-talk can be in our lives. We begin to believe that we are defined by our sins and weaknesses. For example, if we struggle with procrastination, we will say: I am a procrastinator. If we struggle with patience, we will say: I am an impatient person. You know what those labels are in your life, and many of them are likely not something about which you rejoice. To be sure, it is good for us to know where we need to grow, but we do not want that to turn into a feeling of failure or defeat. As a Christian, we should look at those areas with a spirit of hope, seeing in them places where the Lord wants to win His next victory in our lives. As His beloved children, He never stops inviting us to welcome Him in to heal us and renew us. In that regard, I find the following words of Pope St. John Paul II very encouraging: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”
So let’s try our best this week to stop the negative self-talk. As an added challenge, if you notice that you are beginning to fall into that negativity spiral about yourself, break the cycle with an affirmation that is true: “I am a beloved son/daughter of the Father!” What a wonderful cause for rejoicing when we call that to mind. One of the beautiful “side effects” of stopping this negative self-talk is that we will likely begin to see others through the same lens with which we are learning to look at ourselves. We will less frequently fall into judgments and criticisms of others and begin to see them as brothers and sisters, rejoicing in the gift they too have been given as beloved sons and daughters.