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3rd Sunday of Lent – Year A

3rd. Sunday of Lent -Year A. 

Commentary Theme for this Sunday:

“Living Water For the Believer.”

We are all looking for ‘protection’ that is freedom from danger and fear. This sense of being is not new of course; it was always so. Our cave-dwelling ancestors sought it, and all future humans will seek it also. What exactly is this “protection”?

This Sunday’s readings tell us of our need for the ‘Living Water’ for our long, difficult and hazardous ‘Journey of Faith’ to New Life.

The first reading and the Gospel speak to us of life sustaining water. The people of Israel during the Exodus in the desert survived because God provided water for them.

The second reading opens our hearts to confidence, trust and joy because it assures us that no person will be deprived of this Living Water. Jesus is ‘True Water’ for the believer. Water is also one of the Symbols of the Holy Spirit realised in our Baptism.

Introductory Note:

It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.

These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.

These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.

‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. 

“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.

  In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.

Saint Augustine.

Commentaries:

Exodus 17:3-7 .                                                                               

In the first reading the Jewish people, newly escaped from Egypt, complain of their hard lot in the desert of Sinai. They say to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt?” Egypt had at least afforded the Jews some security, though little freedom. Now, in the Sinai desert, they had freedom but little security. There was the God of their ancestors, yes, but as they said to Moses, “Is the Lord among us or not?” God commands Moses to take the same ‘staff’ that was used to free them from slavery in Egypt and strike the rock with it. From this rock life-giving water gushes forth. God indeed is in their midst.

However the people’s foolish anger is not forgotten; the name of the place was called ‘Massah and Meribah’ (by God, obviously) ‘Trial’ and ‘Quarrel’, because the children of God quarrelled with YHWH and put him on trial, by asking “Is YHWH in our midst or not? The experience of the people of Israel coming out of Egypt is repeated in the life of every Christian. Like the Israelites, they too have been convinced to leave the “land of sin and slavery”, the old ways of life; they have become Catechumens or Candidates and received baptism and or confirmation. At the start everything seemed easy; Christians thought that the water of baptism would wash away all their evil inclinations and evil desires. They were convinced that in the new life they had chosen there would not be any difficulties but only happiness. God would protect them from all kinds of misfortune, from disease, bad luck, and family problems. Trials of life and disappointments quickly set in and they still encountered the same difficulties. Today, even the outstanding members of the Christian community aren’t quite the good people we imagine them to be.

At this point the new Christians, like the people of Israel, may begin to doubt that God is really on their side and may think that perhaps the decision to become Christians was just an illusion. They may feel the need to put God to the test, to demand signs and prodigies from him to prove that he keeps his promises. Should we be frightened by such temptations? No, not at all! Christians in this kind of difficulty could think that they are crossing the ‘Massah and Meribah’ in their lives. Notice how God did not react by punishing those who put him to the test. He saw and understood the doubts and difficulties of his children. God knows that there are times and situations when it is hard for a person to go on believing.

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9.

The psalmist uses this hardening of heart in the desert from Exodus to warn his own generation against similar infidelity (Heb 3-4). Their God was their Creator, Saviour and Shepherd. The Psalm contemplates this event, now long in the past, and finds reason to exalt in YHWH, cry out to the rock of our salvation; and the reference to ‘rock’ at the beginning of our excerpt is clearly linked to the mention of ‘Meribah’ and ‘Massah’ at the end – but here the mood is all joy; the troubles are over.

Romans 5:1-2, 5-8.

In the second reading Paul goes right to the heart of ‘true security’: “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Faith in Christ restores peace between God and humanity, who were formerly enemies because of the sin, which held all in its power. Reconciliation, which has now come from the initiative of God in Christ, humanity can now look forward in hope to the fullness of the salvation, which ‘in principle’ it already possesses.

John 4:5-42.                                                                                       

The meeting between Jesus and the woman of Samaria is rich in Johannine symbolism and unfolds many levels of meaning. Jesus rests at ‘Jacob’s well’, a site most sacred to both Jews and Samaritans, since it was named after Isaac’s son Jacob, later called Israel. The Gospel describes how a Samaritan woman went to draw water from the village well. She sees Jesus sitting beside it. He asks her for a drink. She wonders why he should speak to her at all, since Jews and Samaritans were traditional enemies. Jesus in his response casts aside all the ancient prejudices of his people. He then says to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is, that is saying to you, ‘give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water”, and what wonderful water Jesus gives! “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring gushing up to eternal life.”

In Jesus’ presence the Samaritan woman journeys from resistance to any contact with Jesus, through politeness, to curiosity, then to an act of faith and finally to a missionary attitude as she brings others to Jesus. At each of these steps, Jesus respects her and leads her forward gently and slowly. From this new awareness it is only a small step to recognize the Messiah in the person speaking to her. She has arrived at the summit of her journey of faith but still Jesus helps her to take another step when he refers to himself as “I am”. She could have recalled that this was how God revealed himself to Moses on the mountain (Ex 3:14). She hears his message, leaves her water jar by the well and hurries back into the town to tell the people about Jesus. The town’s people beg Jesus to stay longer with them. He does, for two more days, and they come to believe in him.

Today, on this ‘Third Sunday of Lent’, we journey to the ‘well’ too. Like the Samaritan woman, we also bring with us our own struggles to find a happy and secure life, our searching’s in the wrong places, our mistakes, failures and our falls. The Lord sees all our weaknesses, he is telling us who he is, and he is offering us the living, refreshing water of In a perilous economy credit monitoring is less like money. his Spirit. Are we too going to invite him to stay with us, as the Samaritans did, so that we too may discover the joy of a living and soul quenching faith? Or perhaps we’d rather he’d pass quickly by, because we don’t really want to change the comfortable lives that we have built up for ourselves.

The journey of faith for Candidates and Catechumens and for us is a long one, but it leads us to an ever-deepening discovery of God’s love for us. Our faith-journey takes time and we must allow him to guide us. We must never stop seeking and become satisfied with what we have discovered about Jesus. It is only by perseverance and radical change of ‘heart and mind’ that we can find his ‘Way’ and become his witnesses. Coming to faith today involves immersion in the ‘Living Water of Baptism’ and rising up to bring others to Christ. The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water; there, Christ comes to meet every human being.

Prayer is a meeting with Jesus who wants us to sit down beside him. All he asks for is an empty bucket … empty time and a bit of space in our thoughts. Then he will do the rest and fill us with his grace. Jesus: “True Water” for the Believer.

In Jesus we will discover the joys of ‘living water’ and a soul quenching faith.

‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.

Reflections for each day this Week:

           Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 3rd Sunday of Lent Year A, we reflect on …

Sun. …  It is easy for us to criticize the Israelites for their appalling vote of ‘no confidence’ in Moses, not to mention Yahweh. After all, had not the Lord through Moses, accomplished extraordinary rescues, time and time again for these people? We of course are different and never lose faith irrespective of the circumstances, or do we?    

Mon. … You cannot argue with thirst. Dehydration is a dreadful condition, alarming in its immediacy, and like suffocation, imperils life in a way that does not allow much time for debate. The ‘Chosen People’ of God were at risk – did God not see or care? In despair, we too ask questions just like this one!

Tue.   …This is a legitimate question, then and now, and no mere theology to anyone who is suffering. ‘Does God care?’ is perhaps the most religious question one can ask. Moses accepts the urgency and turns it over at once to the Lord. Do we turn over our trials to the Lord and trust in him?

Wed.  … God extends grace to us because of who God is, not because of who we are. God gives us what we need because we need it, not because we have earned it. God is the source of our peace, which the world, in its ruthless version of justice, cannot give.

Thur. … What has ‘living water’ have that other water lacks? Water that flows, pours, moves ceaselessly through its courses. Stagnant water on the other hand, like the water in a cup just sits there, eventually becoming impure by its lack of a replenishing renewing source. Which water are we drinking in our thirst for the truth?   

Frid. … The water that Jesus has, continually splashing up from the boundless generosity of God, is a far superior offering. Imagine having a fountain of water rising up within you, keeping your spirit ever refreshed and alive.

Sat.    … The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water (the truth) there; Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts: his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Prayer is an encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts for us that we may thirst for him.

Prayer after the Daily Reflection.

Father, may we appreciate all that You offer us in Jesus who is our inner fountain of living water which is Your love being poured into our hearts by Your Holy Spirit. We pray that we may pour this same gratuitous love out to others.

           This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen. 

             Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.

           “Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.

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