Recently I was glancing through a timeline of American history. I came to the year 1930 and I was struck by what a winsome and playful year it seemed to have been. It was in 1930 that the chocolate-chip cookie was invented and the Hostess Twinkie was first introduced. It was the year when the first Mickey Mouse comic strip was published and the first Looney Tunes cartoon debuted. The first night baseball game was played in 1930. It also was the year when the first sculpted head on Mount Rushmore, the head of George Washington, was dedicated.
I began to imagine how much fun it would have been to be alive at that time. What a creative and colorful year! Then, I realized. Those things happened during the darkest moments of the Great Depression. They came at a time, after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, when many people had lost their jobs. It was a time of gloom and poverty. Families had to endure desperate sacrifices just to survive.
Yet, it also was a time when many people seemed to be saying, “We need joy. Now more than ever we need something to lift our drooping spirits.” So they warmed homes with chocolate-chip cookies and filled hearts with whimsically looney tunes.
That’s Laetare Sunday. It’s a day that reminds us to find the joy. The joy of God is in this season. See it and grasp onto it.
Last week as I was getting out of my car a small piece of trash fell out. A foul mood came over me as I watched the wind start to carry it across the parking lot. I turned to walk away feeling defeated by rubbish. Then, I decided, “No, I’m going after it.” I ran it down and caught it. I did it for the sake of beauty and order. I did it out of gratitude for the health and strength in my limbs. I did it because it was the right thing to do. I did it for goodness sake and for the glory of God. A foul mood was averted and I felt joy. It was a little act, but it gave me a genuine joy.
So too during Lent. We cleanse our hearts, do what is right, strive for the beauty of goodness and holiness, and thank God for whatever strength of spirit we have been given. We come to Mass and pray, even and especially when it’s hard and in the dark moments, because we choose to. We see the greatest joy – the joy of God. Laetare and approach the pure Easter life.