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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday in Lent
March 23, 2014
Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 51-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42

All my years as a priest have taught me one thing: people thirst and are hungry and we have to find ways to nourish one another. This realization that many are thirsting for the living God in their lives determines everything else we do. Just as a parent intervenes in his children’s lives when they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, every Catholic has to become attuned to the basic needs of every person who comes to her. Questions about God arise when we are deprived of the essential elements of life.

The Israelites shepherded by Moses wonder if God has forgotten them as they wander in a dry and weary land for an undetermined time. They surmise that this God might have moved on from them and left them behind. We all want to belong and feel accepted and lots of questions arise within us when we do not know where we stand with our leaders. We grumble and complain and we are very much like the wandering Israelites whose basic needs remain unmet. And as is always the case, God provides.

The woman of Samaria that Jesus encounters has many unmet needs and she thirsts for “the more,” the magis. She is, after all, a woman, and therefore is not afforded much dignity or respect in a Middle Eastern culture. She is a foreigner to the Jews and is therefore always “an outsider,” never to belong. We can only wonder what her life was like with six men, how she was treated, why the unions did not work out, and if she had enough resources to sustain daily life in her advanced years. It certainly sounds as if life beat her up and cast her aside. Throughout her exchange with Jesus, she remains honorable and yet wonders why a righteous man is breaking so many boundaries to simply talk with her and to treat her well. For us, it is simple. Jesus sees that she is a person of need and he cares for her.

            This passage comes at the early chapters of the Fourth Gospel and one of the main themes is advanced: Jesus comes to gather up all who thirst for the Lord so he can present them to God in his final sacrifice. He breaks class, gender, social, economic, and national boundaries to include this woman into the kingdom. He presents this woman, broken down by society, as a honorable member in this new reality God is ushering in. It gives us a model to challenge our prejudices and assumptions so that we go out of our way of gathering up those who are unlike us to present them to Christ. It was uncomfortable for Jesus, as we see from the reactions of the disciples, and it is uncomfortable for us, as expressed in the exclusionary practices of family and culture, but it really is not a choice, but an imperative, for us.

            When you encounter friends and strangers on the street this week, ask yourself this question, “For what does this person thirst?” Certainly, pay attention to what the person is saying, but in the background ask yourself, “How can I provide for this person? What does she need? What does she need and lack?” You will find yourself softening inside as you attend to the most important things in life. Notice your reaction and check out your willingness to give this very person a cup of water to drink. Regardless of religion, how is this person thirsting for God? Religion, after all, is simply taking what we know of God and putting it into practice in ordinary life. It breaks all sorts of cultural boundaries that God does not adhere to anyways. Let’s win the world over by our compassion and our maturity.

            Think also about your most fundamentally thirst, that you probably hold onto without consciously knowing it. We operate out of our needs and we will move towards what we need until our thirst is quenched. Remember how good it feels when someone gives you what you need. We hold that friend or stranger in high regard in our memory because that act of kindness brought us a glimpse of God.

            Let’s do our work. Our prayer ought to consist of this. We have to let Christ ask us what we need. Our task is to tell him so he can replenish us. We need to spend more time searching out and expressing our needs so they can be met. The same Jesus who met that Samaritan woman 2,000 years ago is the one who stands before you today to ask what you need. May we be bold enough to mimic his words, “Give me a drink.” As soon as our needs are met and we praise God, we instinctively turn to others so we may give them a cup of water. The water we give is life giving and eternal because it comes from Jesus. The news of our good care to others will spread and we will participate in the work of Jesus of gathering others to himself. Many will come to Jesus because we feed them and quench their thirst. Like us and the Samaritan woman’s villagers, they will stand before him in awe and say, “You truly are the savior of the world.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In 2 Kings, Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, became a leper and he sought healing by the prophet in Samaria. The King of Israel was angered because he thought Naaman was trying to trick him, but Elisha counseled him and suggested that he come forward to find if there is a prophet in Israel. When he was cured, he praised the God of Israel and paid him homage.  ~ In the Annunciation of the Lord, Ahaz asks for a sign. The one that was given is that a virgin will conceive and bear a son and the boy will be named Emmanuel, God is with us ~ Moses speaks to the people and asks them to become an obedient people who follow the law of the Lord, which will bring them life and prosperity. It will be a sign of their intelligence. Jeremiah denounces the lawlessness of the people who have turned from the love of the Lord to their own pursuits. He claims faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech. Hosea bemoans the Israel has collapsed in its own guilt. She has acted like a harlot who turned from the Lord’s embrace, but Hosea hopes that Israel will return to her spouse. Hosea implores Israel to return to the Lord with their whole heart. Life without the Lord is not a content one.

Gospel: Jesus tells his disciples that a prophet is not accepted in his hometown. He demonstrates it by pointing out the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, but also Elisha with Naaman, the Syrian. ~ In the Annunciation of the Lord, the angel Gabriel is sent to Nazareth to console Mary, a young woman, who has been chosen to bear the Son of God. ~
Jesus tells his disciples that he has come to fulfill the law. Every part of God’s commands are to be fulfilled and the people must learn of the mercy included as part of God’s commands.
The Pharisees and Scribes tested Jesus as they ask about the source of his power. He contends that if his power was of Beelzebul, the forces of evil would fall because they would be divided against themselves. A scribe asks Jesus about the most important commandment. He summarizes the ten by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God as fully as you can; then you must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Jesus then illustrated the two kinds of people who are in the faith. The ones who love righteousness will worship in the Temple praising God that he has not made them like the others; the one who is humble will simply pray for mercy.

Saints of the Week

March 23: Toribio of Mogrovejo, bishop (1538-1606) was a Spanish law professor in Salamanca who became the president of the Inquisition in Granada. As a layman, he was made the Archbishop of Lima, Peru and became quickly disturbed at the treatment of the native populations by the European conquerors. He condemned abuses and founded schools to educate the oppressed natives. He built hospitals and churches and opened the first seminary in Latin America.

March 25: The Annunciation of the Lord celebrates the announcement that God chose to unite divinity with humanity at the conception of Jesus. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to inform her of God’s intentions to have her conceive the future Messiah. The boy’s name was to be Jesus – meaning “God saves.” This date falls nine months before Christmas Day.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      March 23, 1772: At Rome, Cardinal Marefoschi held a visitation of the Irish College and accused the Jesuits of mismanagement. They were removed by him from the direction of that establishment.
·      March 24, 1578: At Lisbon Rodolf Acquaviva and 13 companions embarked for India. Among the companions was Matthew Ricci and Michael Ruggieri.
·      March 25, 1563: The first Sodality of Our Lady, Prima Primaria, was begun in the Roman College by a young Belgian Jesuit named John Leunis (Leonius).
·      March 26, 1553: Ignatius of Loyola's letter on obedience was sent to the Jesuits of Portugal.
·      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.


  1. There are so many thought-provoking threads running through your homily. One that really strikes me is that we need to ask Christ to replenish us before we can offer to help others. Blessings.

    1. Thanks, Lynda. There is so many ways a homilist can present this week's excellent readings.