4th Sunday of Lent: Laetare Sunday: “The Lord is My Shepherd!”

 

“The Lord is my shepherd!”

Does this make you joyful? Certainly this amazing acclamation from the great King David can give us cause for joy! King David knew, from his extensive experience with that challenging task, that to have a shepherd who is absolutely committed to your well being and is competent to carry that out is a great gift and a cause for joy. How many times did he experience himself in that role, fighting off dangerous beasts that would ravage the flock under his protection, going off in search of the lamb that had gone astray, etc. etc.? He knew what it took to be a good shepherd and all that he knew of that good shepherd he found perfectly expressed in the true Good Shepherd Who was now in his life!

Psalm 23, known as the Good Shepherd Psalm, expresses profound aspects of the care that the Good Shepherd takes of His flock: providing for it, protecting it, anointing it and giving it all things necessary. David himself would have experienced this particularly after his anointing with oil by the prophet Samuel, since, through that event, the Spirit of the Lord “rushed upon David.” Now he is the one being taken care of, he is the one who experiences the gift of the presence and work of the Good Shepherd in his life.  Surely this is a cause for joy for us.

The second reading gives us another cause for joy: that though we had walked in darkness, we are now “light in the Lord.”  What does this mean?  It means that through our relationship with the Lord Jesus, we can now walk in the Light, the Light that shines in the darkness, the Light that the darkness can neither comprehend nor overpower. Fear of the darkness is one of the most primordial fears people can experience—here is its antidote: walking in the Light of Christ!  How do we do this? We learn of His ways by reading His Book, we spend time with Him in prayer, we yield more and more to the gentle Presence of His Holy Spirit within us, praising and worshipping Him in the tongues of men and of angels, and  we lay down our lives in service to His Kingdom.  All this can also be a source of joy for us.

For that joy to become more real in our life there are two things necessary. First is the work of the Lord Jesus Himself. He is the Savior Who loves to save, He is the Good Shepherd, He is the One Who calls us friends! It is His work and His actions that first and foremost are the foundation for it all. It is all about Him! He is the One Who does what is necessary to heal the man born blind.  But second, as that parable points out, is our cooperation. If the man born blind had simply just sat there, with the mud in his eyes, he would still have been blind, but he cooperated, he followed the directives of his Master and went and washed, and after that, he could see.

The joy that the King of Kings desires to put in our lives always derives, in the first instance, from His actions, but then He invites our cooperation. Our full, active, and conscious cooperation with Him allows that joy to become more real for us. The Church gives us Laetare Sunday in the middle of Lent as a reminder to us that first and foremost Lent is all about the Lord Jesus, not simply what we are doing, what we are giving up, etc. It is about Him, His actions, His love for us, and His grace present in our lives. That is the source of our joy, that we are loved beyond reason by a Savior Who loves to  save and Who will lead and guide us, even through the valley of the shadow of death, to that  place of rest and joy that He has for us.

To be an intentional disciple of the Lord Jesus means to be committed to walking with Him and allowing Him to lead us along those right paths, allowing Him to seat us at His table, and allowing Him to anoint us with that saving oil—the presence of God the Holy Spirit, so that His goodness and His mercy can follow us, all the days of our lives!  Rejoice little flock, for it has pleased the Father to give you the Kingdom! — Fr. Ed