Laetare: Rejoice to know that God is very much alive.
In 1991, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote a little book entitled Turning Point for Europe.Europe was at the point of deciding whether to maintain its historically robust belief in God, or to cast off its Judeo-Christian heritage for a radical secularism. Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out a phenomenon unprecedented in human history—the problem: drugs—the pervasive and persistent use of drugs by major populations who find life unbearable without them (well over 50% of American high school students abuse drugs). Why do we in the modern world find life so unbearable? Why can’t we bear the inevitable pains and distresses of human life, as people in former times could? Cardinal Ratzinger suggested one difference in our time: a pervasive and persistent atheism. As the German philosopher Nietzsche said in 1882, “God is dead, and we have killed him.” It is true, that we killed God, on the Cross. But is God dead? He is certainly not dead. He is very much alive, a cause of great joy with anyone who has eyes to see it. Jesus is our Joy, and his Holy Mother is the Cause of our Joy.
Blindness and Sight
In the Gospel, Jesus heals a blind man. The Old Testament rabbis taught that blindness, like all sickness, resulted from personal sin. Jesus, the New Testament rabbi, teaches that blindness is not from sin, but sin is blindness. Sin does not cause physical blindness; it causes spiritual blindness; it blinds a man’s soul; it imprisons a man in a gloomy darkness. The only deadly blindness is of the heart, not of the eyes. (“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.”) One man can see perfectly well, but not believe, while another man can believe with unshakeable faith, even though he cannot see. Seeing is not believing, but believing is seeing. “Do you believe in the Son of man?” Jesus asked the blind man. “I do believe,” he replied. I do not need my eyes to see.
“Seeing,” in the most important sense, means recognizing our own sin—that we are all beggars at the throne of grace—and “seeing” means knowing that God loves us infinitely, that my sins are just a drop in the ocean of his mercy.
Why is the world so sad? So negative? If anything happens in the world, the news media will make the worst of it. If it rains, how terrible the weather. If the weather is bright and sunny, how terrible the drought. Why is the modern world so inclined to see the bad in everything? Why do so many of us need drugs to cope with what we think is an unbearable world? It is because so many are blind to God’s goodness, his beauty, his providence.
God Lives. Rejoice: This is the day the Lord has made.
We live in a world culture that has long since declared that God is dead, that He never did exist. It is called radical secularism, and it is becoming dangerously aggressive. If secularist aggression continues unopposed at the current rate, Christianity, and especially the Catholic Church, will be illegal in ten to twenty years. A long winter of sadness will grip us; your priests and bishops will be eliminated, and the sacraments will cease, except in underground groups at great peril and difficulty. It has happened to many societies over the last 2000 years. It will happen again soon enough in our time, if we do not resolve to oppose it.
God is not dead. He is very much alive. We killed him, true enough, but He has risen from the dead. He makes every morning a new day for us. He is ever ready to sink our sins, our petty, miserable mistakes, into the abyss of his love for us. We have only to come to him. Laetare Sunday is a little prominence in the long valley of Lent, from which we glimpse Easter Sunday. We are halfway there. So let’s keep moving—we will be at Easter soon enough.
Let us turn especially to our Blessed Mother, most needed in difficult times. When the apostles realized what they had allowed to happen, that they had not stood by Jesus when he was arrested and crucified, they clung to Mary, his Mother. And to the apostles, gathered around Mary, he appeared after his resurrection. To the apostles, gathered around Mary, he sent his Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We too must gather around Our Lady, His Mother, in order to be faithful to Him. Immaculate Heart of Mary, cause of our joy, pray for us.