It’s Laetare Sunday, Rejoice Sunday. ‘Rejoice Jerusalem’ is the opening antiphon on Mothering Sunday in the fuller rite. We’re allowed a little respite from Lent – today is also called Refreshment Sunday – with rose rather than purple vestments and we even have flowers. The daffodils will appear in the Porch at the end for you to take away.
This Lent I’m presenting a 15 min weekly series on Jerusalem on Premier Christian Radio to which you can listen again. The holy city of Jerusalem is sacred to the monotheistic triangle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Built as a city that is bound firmly together by Jewish King David (Psalm 122:3), central to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Christians re-read the Old Testament in the light of Christ’s resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit so that Jerusalem becomes a mirror of humanity in its beauty and fragility, a pointer to holiness and the need to repent. In Christian believing it is foretaste of the ultimate holiness and beauty found in the fullness of the Church named in Revelation as the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:10b).
We rejoice today in Mother Church, our Jerusalem on the hill but also the heavenly Jerusalem spoken of in Revelation and today’s epistle. As God is our Father the Church is our Mother. The world has reduced this to our earthly mothers, which is no terribly bad thing, especially when, as for many of us, our faith is owed to good mothering as well as fathering.
There is another mother I need to speak to and her image is over the altar. ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord’ she says in the Gospel we read on Lady Day yesterday: ‘Let what you have said be done to me’. Her ‘Yes’ to God might be the model for what we’re to be about over the last three weeks of Lent. We’re called like Our Lady to let Christ and his kingdom prevail. This means being attentive to God’s gracious demands, as Mary awaited the call of Gabriel.
We best serve God and others through discerning and then effecting best harnessing of our gifts into his praise and service, and this discernment stems from a determination to listen to God like Mary.
The more real Jesus becomes to us and in us, not least through our Lenten devotion, the more our actions will grow loving as he is loving. It’s not how much we do or say or even listen that matters so much a how much love we put into it so to speak, which is why our listening to God is so important.
How can we best give more of ourselves? Through a more profound examination of our conscience which will involve listening to God and then secondly to ourselves with Mary. Mary encourages us towards a positive self-regard. The Almighty has done great things for me she says as part of her Magnificat which is the subject of the second window in this Chapel.
These last weeks of Lent you and I have an invitation to take stock of all that Jesus is doing in our lives and rejoice! To take stock also of the ingrained selfishness, the ‘dog in the manger’ bit so we can give it to God in confession, possibly sacramental confession which is available next Sunday evening’s healing service, on Good Friday or by appointment.
Listen to God, listen to yourself, sift and purify your agenda, then listen to those God puts your way who need your ears! As we listen to others on this feast of family with our outer ears let’s keep two inner ears listening to God and to our own reaction to what we hear lest it get in the way. Like Mary let’s be there for people without getting in their way.
Let’s go more for surrendering ourselves, as at this Eucharist, to whatever God wants of us so we’re made better Christ-bearers under the watchful care of the Mother of believers. Jesus who was first carried by Mary at Bethlehem, who is carried to us in Bread and Wine this morning, waits to be carried by you and I to a waiting world!