3rd Sunday of Lent
March 23, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Ex 17:3-7, Psalm 95, Rom 5: 1-2, 5-8, Jn 4:5-42
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Prayer, Fasting and Alms Giving. When we think about Lent, this is probably the first thing that comes to mind. These are the three pillars of Lenten observance.
A friend of mine, who is a Protestant, asked me on Ash Wednesday, “What exactly is Lent?” I told him that it is a time of self reflection that prepares us for Easter; for the Resurrection of our Lord; just like Jesus did during the 40 days in the desert before he began his public ministry.
This is all true. However, in retrospect, my explanation to my friend fell a little short. What I explained to him was the “How” of Lent. I really could have done a better job of pinning down the “Why.”
Many of you you are probably using the Little Black Book during this season. If you are, then you will remember that the reflection for last Sunday began with the question, “What best describes Lent?” The answer was “Baptism.”
Lent is a time of final preparation for those people who will be Baptized. Throughout the world today, parishes are celebrating the first of the three scrutinies for those who are preparing to receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. The scrutinies help them to uncover and heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in their hearts so they can more easily reject Satan and open themselves to the living water of Christ. The scrutinies are also an opportunity for everyone in the parish to offer prayers for the elect. Today, as they kneel in front of God’s altar
“… the Church calls the Elect to conversion.
To deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ
and to carry out the decision to love God above all.”
Even though most of us here have already been Baptized, Lent gives us the opportunity to join in prayer with the catechumens as we prepare to renew our own Baptismal promises at Easter.
This week’s Gospel is filled with wonderful images that highlight God’s call to us and our relationship with him as we work to live as brothers and sisters of Christ. It is one of the longest Gospel readings in the Lectionary and it features one of the longest conversations that Jesus has with one person. You’ll also notice that we don’t learn this woman’s name. This happens quite a few times in the Gospels; the shepherds in the Nativity story, the Ten Lepers and the Criminals who were crucified with Jesus, just to name a few. Bible scholars tell us that this is probably a literary device employed by the Evangelists to allow us to more easily insert ourselves into the narrative. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at this story.
This woman is an outcast. The Jews considered the Samaritans to be unclean and therefore they had no association with them at all. She was also alienated from her own people. Notice that she is going to fetch water at the hottest part of the day. She is avoiding the other women of the town, otherwise she would go to the well in the morning or evening. To top it off, she is a woman. In that culture, women were second class and it was taboo for them to speak to a strange man in public. Jesus, however, ignores all of this and He initiates the conversation. He reaches out to her and He reaches out to us.
You would think under these circumstances the woman would drop her jar and run, but she doesn’t. Although she may be a little cynical and jaded, she’s probably thinking, “All right smart guy, how are you going to get water out of this well?” she engages with Jesus. Even when He confronts her with her own shortcomings and the bad decisions that she has made in the past, she stays and continues to talk. She admits her guilt and enjoys His company. Jesus wants US to stay with him too, even when we are not at our best. Jesus didn’t take the woman to task and send her away over her failings and He offers the same thing to us.
The final thing I would like to share with you is this. When the women realizes who Jesus is, she is no longer ashamed and goes to find the people she was avoiding. She brings them to Jesus. Jesus has given her the gift of forgiveness, acceptance and love and she can not wait to share Him with others. She is moved by a spirit of Evangelization and so should we.
Our diocese is beginning a Pastoral Plan for Evangelization and in the months to come, you will be hearing more. I invite all of you to pray and ask God how you, like the Samaritan woman, can bring others to Jesus. Notice in the story that all she does is introduce them and then Jesus takes over. At Baptism, we become children of God and disciples of Christ and we are called to share his Gospel with the world.