Laetare Sunday: Rejoice and be Glad

Sinful anger loses its temper, and righteous anger uses it. Our Lord as the Way uses His righteous anger against demagogues, as the Truth against hypocrites, and as the Life against the cruel. His anger is love, rescuing them from their own folly. But He never gets angry at Satan, who is beyond redemption. Christ shouts down those who place burdens on others, and whips those who defile the Temple, but He is very cool with Satan. Ordinary people cannot coolly outwit and outshine the Prince of Lies and Darkness on their own, and so Christ says: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

Satan pays a backhanded compliment when he tempts. St. John Vianney told his people: “The greatest of all evils is not to be tempted, because there are then grounds for believing that the Devil looks upon us as his property.” The Liar likes liars and tempts the Church and the Pope, who — as Simon Peter’s  successor — with his fellow bishops, tells the truth. “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God” (John 3:20-21).

While the New York Times is having problems, it did not need the $52,000 that is was paid as the price of an angry advertisement on March 9. The voice of the ad sounded like Goebbels or a Grand Wizard of the Klan saying: “It’s time to quit the Roman Catholic Church.” At first it seemed like a clever satire of “Liberal Catholics,” but it was meant to be a serious plea from the “Freedom From Religion  Foundation.” Its diction proved Chesterton’s adage tha tjournalism consists in writing badly on an enormous scale. Satan was writing crookedly with straight lines. As the Liar tempted Christ in the desert to live by bread alone, here he wrote: “You’re better than your church. So why? Why continue to attend Mass? Tithe?” Then he tempted us to fly against reality by calling Catholicism “an irrational sect determined to blowout the Enlightenment.” After that, he became angry that we would not exchange the Kingdom of Heaven for all the kingdoms of this world: “Obama has compromised, but the Church never budges.”

On Laetare Sunday, the Church has special cause for joy. For all our failings, the Liar still is unrighteously angry at us: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.  Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5: 11-12).


Fr. George W. Rutler is a contributing editor to Crisis and pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. A four-volume anthology of his best spiritual writings, A Year with Fr. Rutler, is available now from the Sophia Institute Press.

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