By Francis Fernandez-Carvajal
2/26.1 Joy is compatible with mortification and pain. It is the opposite of sadness, not of penance.
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her ... we sing in the Antiphon of today’s Mass: Rejoice with Jerusalem ....
Joy is essentially a Christian characteristic, and in this liturgical season the Church does not fail to remind us that it should be present at every moment of our lives. There is a joy proper to the hope of Advent, then the joy of Christmas itself, so lively and warm. And as the year advances there is the joy of increasing closeness to the risen Christ. But today, as we approach the end of Lent, we meditate on the joy of the Cross. It is one and the same joy as that of being united to Christ: only in him can each of us say truthfully with St Paul: He loved me and gave himself up for me (Gal 2:20). This should be the source of our greatest happiness, as well as the source of our strength and support. Should we have the misfortune to encounter sorrow, undergo suffering, experience misunderstanding, or even to fall into sin, how quickly will our thoughts turn to the One who always loves us and who, with his infinite love as God, overcomes in every trial, fills our emptiness, forgives all our sins and eagerly impels us towards a new path that is safe and joyful.
This Sunday is traditionally called Laetare Sunday from the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon. The strictness of the Lenten liturgy is interrupted on this Sunday with words that speak to us of joy. Today, rose-coloured vestments, if they are available, are permitted in place of purple, and the altar can be decked with flowers as on no other day in Lent.
In this way the Church wishes to remind us that joy is perfectly compatible with mortification and pain. It is sadness and not penance which is opposed to happiness. Taking part to the utmost in this liturgical season which reaches its climax in the Passion, and hence in suffering, we realise that approaching the Cross also means that the moment of our Redemption is coming ever closer. In this way, the Church and each of her children are filled with joy: Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her.
The mortifications we do during these days should not cast a shadow over our interior joy. Rather, it ought to increase it, because our Redemption is near at hand; the pouring out of love for mankind, which is the Passion, is coming and the joy of Easter will soon be upon us. We therefore feel the need to be very closely united to Our Lord, so that our lives too may reflect once more the suffering He underwent for our sakes, as well as experiencing great happiness in the attainment of the glory and joy of the Resurrection through his Passion and his Cross.
 Is 66:10-11
 John Paul II, Address, 1 March 1980
 Roman Missal, General Instructions, 308
 Caeremoniale Episcoporum, 1984, 48
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rev. Francis Fernandez-Carvajal
Rev. Francis Fernández-Carvajal is a Priest of the Opus Dei Prelature and the author of many popular spiritual works. His seven-volume series In Conversation with God provides over 500 meditations to be used throughout the liturgical year. It has sold over 2 million copies and has been translated into many languages.
In Conversation With God