Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Third Sunday of Lent

March 27, 2011
Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42

We see the transformation life-giving water can bring when we pit the first reading from Exodus against John's fourth chapter. In the desert the ancient Hebrews search for water after their exodus from Egypt. Dissatisfied with their fate, they test Yahweh to see if he is present or not. Meribah means 'to quarrel' and Massah means 'to test.' As Moses follows Yahweh's command to strike the stone, water flows forth. Yahweh does not rebuke. Yahweh gives bread from heaven and water from the rock and thereby proves his mastery over hostile environments.
         
In John's Gospel, Jesus has retreated from a hostile place into Samaria and will provide an insight to the Samaritans that he is the "Savior of the world." It is an unusual encounter for Jesus and the woman at noontime at Jacob's well. The strained relationships between the Jews and Samaritans are evident. The woman is speaking at a literal level which shows how she progresses from ignorance and lack of belief to full faith. Jesus tells her that he is a "gift from God" and the source of "living water" to show he is superior to Jacob.

The imperative of Jesus to "call your husband" sets us a honest response from the nameless woman. When she confesses her past, Jesus is not preoccupied with her sinfulness (living with a man after having five husbands.) She calls him a prophet, but the Samaritan tradition expects a prophet to uncover the lost Temple vessels and to vindicate the tradition of worship on Mt. Gerizim in place of Jerusalem. Jesus counters by telling her that all believers will worship God in spirit and truth. For John, Jesus is the truth since he is the revelation of God. When the woman suggests he might be the messianic prophet, Jesus answers, "I am," which indicates the divine being. Jesus is greater than Abraham, their common father in the faith. Jesus is equal to God.

The theme of mission arises as Jesus' disciples arrive as the woman goes into town to bring others to him, the Messiah. They want Jesus to eat nutritious food. For Jesus, doing the will of the one who sent him is his "food." He needs nothing else. The disciples will have to take up his ministry, which is to complete his work of bringing others to God. This completion happens at the time of his death on the cross.

The Samaritans come to belief first on the basis of the woman's word and then through their own experience of Jesus' words. The Samaritans have transcended their own messianic expectations. Through their discourse they come to see Jesus as Savior of the world.

The power of conversation is immense. Entering into dialogue with generosity of heart and with a desire for enrichment will help others in their pursuit of the truth. The way Jesus discussed and unfolded the truth about himself is an attractive model for us. Conversation is progressive. When both our head and heart are engaged in dialogue, many opportunities for finding God's truth comes about more easily. We can benefit from the model of discourse shown to us by Jesus in this passage. Many in the world will set up their camps in the war of words. We need to tear down those walls and build new ones built upon seeking the truth through understanding and compassion.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In 2 Kings, Naaman, the leper, seeks out Elisha, the prophet, who tells him to wash in the Jordan River seven times to cure his malady. Naaman was expecting something miraculous and doubted the ordinariness of the healing routine. However, his servant-daughter convinced him to follow Elisha’s commands that healed him. In Daniel, Azariah feels forsaken and abandoned by God, but continues to offer sacrifices with a contrite heart in hopes of God’s deliverance. In Deuteronomy, Moses gives the law that promises life when the people move into the Promised Land of milk and honey. In Jeremiah, the prophet commands the people to listen to his words that come from God, but they did not obey or heed his words. Faithfulness has disappeared. The Lord in Hosea beckons the people to return with all their heart because the Lord is the only one who can love them freely. The Lord continues to beckon until Ephraim and Judah return home.

Gospel: Jesus explains that a prophet is not accepted in his native place. Take, for instance, Elijah’s efforts to sustain the widow of Zarephath or Elisha’s cure of Naaman, the Syrian leper. Jesus tells a parable about forgiveness by describing the unjust actions of a man who received incredible mercy from the man who owned his debt. The wicked servant, whose debt was forgiven, could not forgive his fellow servant. Jesus says God will judge us on the mercy and forgiveness we meter out to others. Jesus warns people that the laws of Moses are strictly in place. He doesn’t abolish the law, but becomes the perfection of it. As Jesus cures a deaf mute, the religious leaders wonder about the source of his power. They wonder if it comes from Beelzebul. Jesus explains that a house divided against itself cannot stand. When asked about the greatest of all commandments, a scribe answers in a way that shows Jesus he is not far from the kingdom of heaven. Jesus tells a parable of the Pharisee and tax collector who go to the Temple to pray. The one who humbly prays for God's mercy is justified.

Saints of the Week

No major saints are celebrated on the calendar this week. This week on the calendar is usually a time taken up by Holy Week.

This Week in Jesuit History

· March 27, 1587: At Messina died Fr. Thomas Evans, an Englishman at 29. He had suffered imprisonment for his defense of the Catholic faith in England.
· March 28, 1606: At the Guildhall, London, the trial of Fr. Henry Garnet, falsely accused of complicity in the Gunpowder Plot.
· March 29, 1523: Ignatius' first visit to Rome on his way from Manresa to Palestine.
· March 30, 1545: At Meliapore, Francis Xavier came on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle.
· March 31, 1548: Fr. Anthony Corduba, rector of the College of Salamanca, begged Ignatius to admit him into the Society so as to escape the Cardinalate which Charles V intended to procure for him.
· Apr 1, 1941. The death of Hippolyte Delehaye in Brussels. He was an eminent hagiographer and in charge of the Bollandists from 1912 to 1941.
· Apr 2, 1767. Charles III ordered the arrest of all the Jesuits in Spain and the confiscation of all their property.

Lenten Scrutinies

Candidates and catechumen who have been preparing this past year for their sacraments during the Easter season will be scrutinized by their church and their community of faith. This first of the three scrutinies begins this week.

The year (Cycle A), the first scrutiny is taken from John 4: The woman at the well; the second is from John 9: The man born blind; the third is from John 11: Raising Lazarus from the dead.

We continue to pray for the 'Elect' of our church.

Japan

Perhaps you can find time this week to offer silent prayer for the devastated people of Japan.