On this Laetare (‘Rejoice!’) Sunday midway through Lent, we are encouraged to celebrate with hope and joy before we enter the darker times of Holy Week. Today we particularly rejoice in the reconciliation and forgiveness of sins bought for us by Jesus’s suffering and death.

In the First Reading, the Israelites celebrate their first Passover in the Promised Land. No longer reliant on the manna with which God had sustained them during their years in the desert, they rejoice that God has brought them to a place where the bounty of the earth feeds them.

The Psalm is one of praise, rejoicing in God’s goodness. It glorifies the Lord, who hears and answers our prayers when we are afraid or in distress.

St Paul speaks of the ‘new creation’ made possible by Christ’s suffering and death. Through this sacrifice, God has reconciled humanity to God’s self, and our faults are forgiven. Because of this, we ourselves are then called to share the good news of forgiveness with others. (Second Reading)

The Gospel relates the first part of the story of the return of the prodigal son. We witness the total and utter forgiveness the father bestows on his selfish and wayward son, who now regrets his foolishness. Just as the father forgives his son, so we know that we too will be forgiven, as we express our sorrow for actions and inactions that take us away from God.

As we celebrate the joy of knowing that we are totally loved and forgiven, in these final weeks of Lent we ask for the grace to see ourselves as God sees us, and to see others just as God sees them too.