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Contents: Volume 2 - The Third Sunday of LENT (A)
March 15, 2020


 

  The

  THIRD

  Sunday

  LENT

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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Lent 3A 2020

Health-wise, the world is immersed in a worrisome situation. Not only are "usual" tensions high, but in many places, overall anxiety is way out of sight. I find myself bobbing up and down in the waves of anxiety myself!

Two things from our Sunday readings helped me to refocus myself a bit. In our second reading, we are reminded that "hope does not disappoint". What we all hope for in this medical emergency transcends where we live or what we do in our daily lives or what political party we prefer. In a perfect world, this coming together for the common good would rule every aspect of our lives and things would change dramatically and quickly. Perhaps, our universal hope will flow into little places, one little act of kindness at a time, to make a positive difference. Let's hope so! If you are a reader, try the psalms, or Anxious about Nothing by Max Lucado, or something else uplifting by your favorite spiritual author.

The second reminder is contained in Jesus's words as he speaks to the woman of Samaria about the gift of "a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Perhaps we have never been as "thirsty" as this woman who was seemingly living a rather unconventional life, but we have all hit some pretty dry spots spiritually sometime in our lives. In those kinds of times, people flounder a lot and usually don't make very good decisions that help things get better. They get lost in depression or anxiety and they barely plod along in their lives. That's the time for a Savior or at least a spiritual lifeguard or true friend. For the woman of Samaria, Jesus was an unwelcomed stranger, but he offered her an eternal gift.

So, too , with us. Through the waters of Baptism, the Lord's spiritual radar knows when our thirst needs to be quenched. At those times, I think, that spring of water does well up... if only we notice!

Lent is a time to notice! We need to notice how parched we are, mid-problem, mid-crisis, and definitely way before mid-Lent. Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we can turn our attention to more spiritual things, things that connect us to the Divine Who loves us unconditionally.

Even as sinners, we are still loved, whether the sin is great or small. We are loved so much that the Savior is already waiting for us, with open arms and a glass of water or maybe even a bucket of his or one a friend will provide. We need to drink deeply at times of stress and anxiety to rekindle hope in times of worry as well as this spring of spiritual water that is already with in us. We need to fast from worry and feast on hope!

What is that "drink of water" that stirs that glimmer of hope in you? Is it a walk in the woods or by a body of water? Is it cloud gazing? How about just some spiritual music? Do you like to help a friend garden or play with children? Is it a phone call with a close friend, an hour of fishing, or a craft or woodworking project?

The Lord uses simple activities (like a conversation about a drink of water) to reconnect us to him. Notice which of those gifts is waiting for you now, just for the taking. It may be the much-needed springboard to a deeper spiritual life this Lent.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Third Sunday of Lent March 15 2020

Exodus 17:3-7; Responsorial Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-2 & 5-8; Gospel Acclamation John 4:42 & 15; John 4:5-42

A central theme this Sunday focuses on water. The majority of citizens of the United States enjoy plentiful water. Many of our youngest children think of water as coming from a faucet. There is little to no relationship in their young minds of lakes, rivers, and even storm drains on streets. The water is somehow just there, always available, always present, so lacking in preciousness as to be wasted. Yet one of the greatest threats to peace on our earth in decades to come will be the absence of potable water. That is the fluid all living things, including humankind. Without it we die; without it nothing grows and food itself disappears. In the first reading from the book of Exodus Moses fears he will be stoned to death because of a lack of water for the people. These were the people in slavery who could depend on the Nile River for water in abundance. These were the people who fled though a seabed with walls of water on each side of them. This walk through the water reminds us of our baptism in which we flee the evil cultures and traditions of the world of Pharaoh which enslave us. The frightening thing about this "baptism" is that it leads to the desert, and a wandering whose experiences are the source of growth in a living according to the goodness of God. In this context recall that after Jesus was baptized he was led into the desert just as was the Hebrew nation. There he, like the Hebrew nation was tempted. It’s a lot like the RCIA process as well. We work to gain the freedom of

In this Sunday’s reading, the dryness of the desert threatens the very life of this fledging nation. They desperately need water. And God provides it there in the desert. They named the place Meribah which means "contention." They also called the place Massa which means "strife." The book of Numbers chapter 20 adds detail to this story. The place is called Meribah and Massa because it was here that the tribes contended with God and the place where Moses and Aaron presented themselves to the nation as the nation’s saviors. "Look what we can do for you!" Because of that pride and arrogance neither Aaron nor Moses were permitted to enter the land promised to Abraham. Each was buried in the mountains and their graves unknown to the nation and their families. The story focuses on "living waters" that came from the rock. How unlikely is it that a rock could produce streams of flowing water sufficient to provide drink for the thousands of Hebrews as well as their herds and beasts of burden?

If we study the two central characters in the story of the Samaritan Woman, we’ll get a better idea of what this is all about. Jesus and the nameless woman meet at the well at high noon. The disciples have gone into Sychar to purchase food for themselves and for Jesus. Jesus is resting by the well, exhausted from his efforts and his travel. The woman comes out in the noonday sun to bring water to her home. Here are two tired persons meeting at a source of refreshment. Jesus needs the woman’s help to draw water from the hundred-foot-deep cistern. The woman needs Jesus’ help in finding herself. Jesus’ humanity is clearly present. The gospel of John focuses very much on the divinity of the person Jesus. This story seems in contradiction to divinity theme of John.

If we stand back a bit and look at this story, found only in John’s gospel, in its historic setting we will discover a needed understanding of our spiritual life. Rabbis in Jesus’ time would ever speak to a woman in public, not even his wife or daughter. For a Rabbi to do so would ruin his reputation and credibility. And no woman would ever speak with a man in the street. And no Samaritan would ever speak to a Jew, nor would any Jew ever speak to a Samaritan. The enmity between Jew and Samaritan was more than four hundred years old with no sign of it ever abating. These are barriers built up between persons. These barriers are barriers as well between the Divine and the Human.

Look for a moment at Jesus. He breaks another barrier, one that is even more challenging than the barrier between Jewish men and women or Samaritan and Jew. In his person, Jesus breaks the barrier between the divine and human. The barrier between Creator and created was impossible to be broken by humanity. But then God became human and human and divine natures came together in the person of Jesus. In breaking this barrier, Jesus opens humanity to possibilities of relationship that based on pouring out of the lifeblood of animals in holocaust sacrifices. Man would no longer be required to approach the Divine with the intercession of blood poured out – of life returned to the creator of life. The birth of the Son of God as Son of Man was a gift given upon the gift of life, changing human life forever.

Another barrier exists in each of us. It is a common experience of all humans that we lack the ability to achieve satisfaction. There is always something picking at us, denying us peace and fullness of happiness. What is it about us that nags at us, that makes us uneasy, that brings us face to face with personal emptiness and incompleteness? No matter how successful we are; no matter how powerful we are; no matter how popular we are there is always a dissatisfaction in our spirits that makes us thirst for something we’re missing. Here is the barrier to happiness. Here is the barrier to fulfilling relationships. What is it that causes this thirst, this hunger? That is what the woman at Jacob’s well discovered.

Poets, song writers, artists of every kind work to capture this hunger, this thirst within us. The woman at the Samaritan Well discusses this thirst with Jesus. She longs for living waters that will satisfy her thirst. Living water is water flowing in crystal clear streams, unpolluted by the offal of human endeavors. It is cool and clean and refreshes the body, lifts-up the spirits of the traveler, the exhausted, and dried-out lives. That is the living water the woman longs for. Yet there is truth behind this thirst that is more than can be quenched by water. There is truth behind Jesus’ presence seated at a source of stale, confined cistern water. Cistern water is stored water that loses its freshness. The woman claims she has no husband even though she apparently tried to find fulfillment with five different husbands. Each of those relationships only proved her emptiness and loneliness. All failed and her life is in shambles. She comes out in the noonday sun to avoid the chatter of other women who despise her and mock her failures.

Jesus is tired, exhausted by his travels, his healing, and his preaching. Yet he finds refreshment in sharing with this woman his message, his presence, and his healing. She has only to drink of his presence, his healing, and his message and she will be lifted-up. She left her bucket and water jar at the well and shouted to her village, to the people who mocked and shunned her. She found the one who could save them all. It made no difference he was Jew and they Samaritan.

The disciples found Jesus revitalized when they returned with food. They were amazed at his recovery. For Jesus was refreshed by sharing the good news. We don’t have the words of his conversation with the woman. John writes of the interplay, the contest between Jesus and the woman. But the message seems lacking in depth. It is only about water and how it refreshes. It is a metaphor for the presence of Jesus and about the good news he carries with him.

The story tells us how we must come face to face with our inadequacies and our sinfulness. These are barriers to happiness. When we are led to comprehend the emptiness of worldly life we are healed of our emptiness and disease and addictions by meeting Jesus at the well. It begins with conversation – some call this prayer. It continues with learning about Jesus and in that light, we see ourselves for what we are – some call this examination of conscience. It moves forward to desiring living water – some call this acceptance of self as we are so that we can receive the compassion and mercy of God through the Son who is one of us. It continues was a sense of peace and an unplanned for joy which changes our living. Some call this union with God. The joy and peace we receive as gifts when we let go of our pretensions, when we let go of the fear we have of admitting our failures and our inclination to evil – that joy and peace cannot be contained within us as in a storage jar, or a cistern that fills with water percolated from the soil. When we discover our guilt and let it go under the gaze of the Lord, when we come to the spring of flowing waters, we discover the wonder of human life. That is the evangelization of the town folk of the Samaritan town of Sychar. It is not constriction by rules and regulations that we seek. We seek living waters flowing from an unending stream from the Creator through the Son and made present even now in the Spirit.

This coming to the stream is a process just as the calling and forgiveness and hope of the Samaritan woman was a process of conversation with the Lord who meets us wherever we come to draw water.

As we come to the well during this Lent let us hand over our troubles, our pains, our sins, and our concerns for dignity and worth to Him who sits at the cistern. He will change this collector of ground water into streams of life-giving water that make our living filled with possibilities. We can let go of what we fearfully hide. We are liberated by His presence and the flowing streams of life-giving hope, faith, and charity on our pilgrimage toward home.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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DECIDING FOR LIFE: 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT A

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! Life is full of them. Many are not particularly important. Many are routine. But sometimes we sense a need deep inside us to make a decision that is different. One that is going to change our lives so much that life will never be the same again! We decide, e.g. to take our problem to a counselor. We join a support group for help with an addiction. We accept an offer of friendship. We join a club. We meet someone special and fall in love. We answer an advertisement for a job that will take us interstate or overseas. We leave a higher paying job for one with more meaning or one in which we can be more helpful to others. We quit hanging out with friends whose standards and values are dragging us down. We sense a call from God to work for others as a church worker or a social worker.

The change we need or want requires us to leave a lot behind, leave our comfort zones and alter our lifestyles. But the promise of better days ahead impels us to take this brand-new direction in our journey of life.

We see this happening today with ‘the woman at the well’ who seemingly by chance, comes across Jesus resting at Jacob’s well in Samaria. It happens like this: - It is mid-day. Jesus is thirsty. He is thirsting for water, but even more he is thirsty for a meaningful connection with this woman, generally considered by other Jews an alien and outsider. The story-teller does not give her a name because she represents every one of us. Her conversation with Jesus includes symbols and word-plays. Eventually he breaks through her sarcasm and her other defences and touches the guilty secrets of her life. After five husbands already, her current live-in lover is not her husband at all!

His focus on her past life is not to hurt her but to expand her vision and offer her hope. She grasps that in the unexpected friendship this stranger is now offering her, something new and wonderful is happening. She understands that even in her messed-up life, God is getting involved and reaching out to her. So much so, that she cannot but ask herself: ‘Who is this man who is so different from all the others I’ve known? Why is he so different? Why is he so respectful? Why is he so attentive? Why is he so kind and caring? Is he perhaps greater than our father, Jacob? Could he possibly be a prophet with a message from God? Could he even be the Messiah, the Saviour, that God has promised us?’

She is now the one who is thirsty. She is thirsting, she is longing, she is craving, to get to know him better. As they continue their conversation, she finds that Jesus is satisfying not only her thirst to know him better, but also her longing and determination to get a life, a brand-new life, a better life than ever before.

It’s his interest in her, his words, his gestures, his whole attitude, together with the time and space he is giving her that’s making all the difference. He is as purifying, refreshing and invigorating to her as a stream of running water. She is sensing something of the truth spoken by St Paul in our Second Reading today: '.. the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit .. given to us'. She is sensing that Jesus loves her, and that God in Jesus loves her. At long last she has come to realize one thing for sure. Life will never be the same again because she, with her dignity restored by her encounter with Jesus her Saviour, will never be the same again.

This is all so true that she decides that she cannot keep Jesus to herself. She feels compelled to bring others to him too. So, we find her running back to her village and shouting at the top of her voice to anyone and everyone who will listen, the good news about him. She blurts out: 'He just told me everything I’ve ever done.' Touched by her excitement and enthusiasm, the villagers beg Jesus to stay with them. He ends up staying two whole days. His words and presence make such a deep impression that they end up saying to the woman: 'Now we no longer believe because of what you have told us; we have heard him for ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.'

Our story of ‘the woman at the well’ asks us to remember today all the ways we have experienced the presence of Jesus to us, and all the ways we have experienced his love for us. It asks us to consider how humble, kind, sensitive, understanding and forgiving he has been with us. It asks us in return to extend the firm hand of friendship and the over-flowing waters of mercy, compassion, acceptance, kindness and forgiveness, to all the people who come into our lives day after day. Family, friends, workmates, strangers, customers, clients, patients, students, anybody and everybody!

This touching story of the goodness and kindness of Jesus goes with the words of our Responsorial Psalm today, 'if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts'. So much so that we too will want to go to Jesus our Saviour in our Holy Communion with him today, and beg him to stay with us. To stay with us and be for ourselves and others that very same living, refreshing, life-giving water that he was to one truly blessed woman, known for evermore as ‘the woman at the well’!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net. Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


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