Pathways through Lent

Weekday reflections from St. John’s in the season of Lent.

Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent: March 11, 2024

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel a little uncomfortable with Rejoice Sunday. The readings can feel a bit like cheating. Take this, from Isaiah 65: I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating.

What are we to make of such promised joy during a season of sobriety and silence? How can we fully appreciate the despair that Jesus and his followers felt as he neared the time of his crucifixion, if we focus on ideas like this?

I think many people would say that Rejoice Sunday is a reminder that God will always be with us, even in the darkest days. I think that’s right. Everyone despairs . . . even Jesus on the Cross . . . and so we can always use a reminder of the power of eternal comfort that God provides. But I wonder if there’s also something more.

I wonder if the purpose here is to give us time to stop and think deeply about these promises from God, before we get caught up in the excitement and joy of Easter. Because, in some ways, what God is promising is even more miraculous and awe-inspiring than the resurrection and ascension. To quote the same verse from Isaiah: No more shall the sound of weeping be heard, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime.

Can you imagine a world in which such things occur? Where the wolf and the lamb feed together? It’s awfully hard for me, I have to admit. What about you?

Now, those of you who are better biblical scholars than I have already noticed something . . . and that is that I took some liberty in quoting this reading. It’s actually: No more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be an infant that lives in it but a few days . . . And “it,” of course, is Jerusalem.

So, this Easter Sunday, I will rejoice with the glad news of Jesus’s resurrection and the promise of life to come. AND, I will stop to think about the even more remarkable promise of a world free from pain and suffering, even in places like Jerusalem and Gaza and the West Bank.

Elizabeth Field
Pathways Contributor

Links to the appointed readings for today