FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Reflection for March 12, 2023
Third Sunday of Lent (A)
Exodus 17:3-7 | Psalm 95:1-2, 6--9 | Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 | John 4:5-42 Or 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42
The readings for the Third Sunday of Lent draw us to closely examine an attitude of gratitude, gratefulness for God's presence, and new life in Christ.
I love the story of the second grader from Poblacion, Makati named Richard. On the way to school, Richard’s arm bumped against a seat on the school bus and it made a big scrape and bled until blood got all over his clothes. He had forgotten to put his homework paper in his book bag so he got in trouble with the teacher. At recess, he was hit in the mouth and lost two teeth. After school he slipped on the ice and broke his wrist. On the way to the hospital he reached into his pocket with his good hand pulled something out. His father asked him what it was. He said, “It’s a five Peso coin! I found it on the ground when I fell down. It’s the first five Peso I ever found. This is the best day of my life!”
Our First Reading tells us about thirst for water in the desert. Moses was leading the Hebrew people from Egypt to the Promised Land. They were wandering through the desert and were dying of thirst. They grumbled and complained rather than trust in God. They put God into the test because they forgot that God has a plan for them and He would see that plan through. The Hebrew people’s attitude of discontent and its posture of rebellion against God and his representative, Moses, are further attested in the names given to the location of the incident--Massah, from the Hebrew verbnissa, means to test or to challenge, and Meribah, from the verb rib, means to quarrel. Despite a lot of complaining and grumbling, God, in His great mercy, brought forth water from the rock. The Hebrew people drank, and were satisfied. In later Hebrew literature, the rabbis taught that the rock, that God ordered Moses to strike, journeyed with the Israelites and provided a steady supply of water during the desert wanderings. How deep the patience and forbearance of God toward provoking sinners! This story is not just about the Israelites in the desert. This story is also about us. Most of us are quick to grumble and complain when things don't go the way we think they should. Again and again God will bring us to wit's end - to test us, to see if we would trust Him. When we grumble and complain, we lose sight of all the good things God is doing. We tend to forget that God is the only one who can quench our thirst.
An entrepreneurial couple from Manila visited a remote barangay in Nueva Ecija, Philippines and saw farmer Adriano and his son Arnel working in a rice paddy. The old man guided the heavy plough as the boy pulled it. "I guess they must be very poor," the man said to the Franciscan friar who was the couple's guide. "Yes," replied the friar. "That's the family of Adriano de Belen. When the church was built, they were eager to give something to it, but they had no money. So they sold their carabao and donated the money to the church. This summer they are pulling the plough themselves." After a long silence, the woman said, "That was a real sacrifice." The friar responded, "They do not call it a sacrifice. They are just thankful they had a carabao to sell to build the Lord's house."
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, asserts that just as God poured forth water for the people in the desert, the saving water of God’s love is poured out into the hearts of powerless but believing sinners through the gift of the Holy Spirit. He reminds us of how helpless our life was and could still be without Christ, the Living Water. In dying, Christ made himself the source of our own life. Sadly, like the Israelites – who cannot believe that God is present with them – we overlook the presence of the Holy Spirit around and within us. Thus, we are inclined to grumble, to be thankless, or to complain about our circumstances.
Businesses restart under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic by clearing away the rubbish and placing a sign out front that said, “Business as usual.” When God saves us, his desire is that we would put out a sign that says, “Under new management.”
In the Gospel, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The Samaritan woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus then tells the woman at the well that she’s had five husbands and the one she’s living with now isn’t her husband. The five husbands represent the five captor nations with whom the Samaritans were unfaithful to Yahweh. The Samaritan woman represents the remnant people of Northern Kingdom of Israel, which unlawfully and unfaithfully 'husbanded' itself to foreign nations and their gods. In the Old Testament, wells are important meeting places, especially for future spouses. Rebekah and Isaac’s marriage broker (Genesis 24:10-27), Rachel and Jacob (Genesis 29:1-12), Zipporah and Moses (Exodus 2:15-17) — they all met at wells. A well is a good place for a thirsty man to pick up a woman. We are on the right track when we think and pray that Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman is all about marriage. If we look more closely, Jesus' encounter with the woman by the well comes immediately after the story of the wedding of Cana in John 2:1–10, and when John the Baptist calls Jesus the 'bridegroom' in John 3:28-30. Anyone with a scriptural mind will say, “OMG! Maybe Jesus is meeting his bride here.” In our Gospel, Jesus comes in the love of God to propose marriage to the Samaritan woman. Not an earthly, temporal marriage, but a heavenly, eternal marriage. He proposed to her to receive the gift of living water which only he, her real bridegroom, can give. The woman accepted Jesus’ offer and called on all the villagers to hear about it too. Indeed, Jesus is the Bridegroom who comes into the world to take a bride for himself from all the nations of the world! He has lovingly chosen the Church and each of the faithful, though historically unfaithful, as his bride, who he takes with him back into the presence of the Father.
Jesus used the image of water, a resource necessary for survival, to describe himself. He spoke of a new water, a new life that he wants to give us. Tradition has it that the apostles of Christ baptized the Samaritan woman and gave her the name of Photina, which literally means'the enlightened one'. Today, the invitation of the Samaritan woman to 'Come and see' reminds us thirsty sinners that we are daily called to drink of the living water and be enlightened by Jesus’ great gift.Therefore, let our prayer for today and always be:
Lord Jesus, we recognize you in our midst — as the Rock of Horeb and the well of Jacob. we draw our life from you for you are the spring of life. Give us the grace to listen to you, and to accept your gift of living water. Accompany us on our journey through life, so that with the help of your grace we may start a new life and walk again in faithfulness to You. Amen.
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Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum