Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Third Sunday of Lent, March 27, 2011 (Cycle A)

Link to Todays Readings, Psalm and Gospel

Thirst.  Today we hear some about being thirsty and needing water.  First in our reading from Exodus, the chosen people "grumble" to Moses about the lack of water in the desert.  Then in the Gospel the Samaritan woman fetches a drink of water for Jesus from Jacob's well.

The Gospel story of the Samaritan women has much depth.  First, we must understand that it was forbidden for Jewish leaders to interact with Samaritans.  This is because the Jews and Samaritans were rivals from the time of the Exodus, in the 6th Century B.C.  Most all of the Jews were killed or driven off into exile by the Babylonians.  Somehow the people of Samaria escaped being exiled.  Upon their return, the Jews and Samaritans no longer had a common history, and became adversaries.

Secondly, a Jewish man, a rabbi in this case, Jesus, would also not be permitted to converse with a women.  Gender divisions were very deep and well known at the time of Second Temple Judaism.  In fact, during the seasonal pilgrimages "up" to Jerusalem during the feasts, men and women would travel separately.

Nonetheless our Lord asks the women for a drink because he thirsts.  He thirsts yes for water but also for her soul as he gently corrects her poor choices of moral behavior and reveals himself as Lord to her.  This is an indication of how wide spread the Gospel message is intended.  She runs back home to inform her village.  We can see from the disciples reactions how radical this idea is, that salvation comes from the Jews yet is for all.

Later in John, at the cross, our Lord will say again, "I thirst" (Jn 19:28).  He does so to indicate to us in a timeless fashion that he thirsts for our love, so He can instill in us His grace.

Lots of times our inner faith is likened to a inner vessel or reservoir; it is at varying stages of fullness throughout our spiritual lives.  St. Paul reminds us today in Romans that hope, a theological virtue, does not disappoint.  He says it is like the love of God that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  Namely at our Baptism and Confirmation.  These are good images that depict our inner reservoir longing to be filled with the Holy Spirit, our true tonic.  His reference to hope leads us to consolation.

The image above is one that you would see at any of the Missionaries of Charity foundations, Mother Theresa's order.  She realized that His thirst was insatiable, that he wanted to drink us up in His love so as to fill our reservoirs with His love.  Mother Theresa certainly showed a profound and extraordinary response to his invitation by her devotion to Him and His little ones through her service to the most marginalized of society.

Today those who will be received into the Church at Easter receive their first scrutiny.  The purpose of this prayer is to help them prepare to receive the Spirit at Easter in its fullest.  Let us then join our prayers to theirs that their thirst will be satisfied by His love and His grace; that hope in Him and His resurrection does not disappoint.  Let us join them as we receive his sacrificial offering, his body to feed us and his blood to quench our thirst as we move in this world towards our eternal calling, life forever with Him in heaven.

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